This morning, we heard that Anhoni—the transgendered artists formerly known as Antony and best known for his work as Antony and the Johnsons and his collaborations with, among others, Björk—announced she will be boycotting this year’s Academy Awards.
As reported yesterday by the LA Times, Anhoni was nominated for the best original song Oscar this year for her track “Manta Ray”, a song “about ecocide” she wrote with composer J. Ralph for the Discovery film Racing Extinction. Anhoni’s letter yesterday beautifully, eloquently, and heartbreakingly explains the reason, after so much initial excitement for being nominated, she decided she could not attend the Academy Awards this year:
“I am the only transgendered performer ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award, and for that I thank the artists who nominated me. (There was a trans songwriter nominee named Angela Morley in the early 70’s who did some great work behind the scenes.) I was in Asia when I found out the news. I rushed home to prepare something, in case the music nominees would be asked to perform. Everyone was calling with excited congratulations. A week later, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and the Weeknd were rolled out as the evening’s entertainment with more performers ‘soon to be announced’. Confused, I sat and waited. Would someone be in touch? But as time bore on I heard nothing. I was besieged with people asking me if I was going to perform.” She continued—”My anxiety increased as weeks passed. I slowly realized that the positive implication of this nomination was being retracted. The producers seemed to have decided to stage performances only by the singers who were deemed commercially viable. Composer David Lang’s song “Simple Song #3” performed by South Korean soprano Sumi Jo was also omitted.”
Anhoni admits she realizes she wasn’t omitted from the performances as a direct result of being transgender, “but if you trace the trail of breadcrumbs,” she writes “the deeper truth of it is impossible to ignore. Like global warming, it is not one isolated event, but a series of events that occur over years to create a system that has sought to undermine me, at first as a feminine child, and later as an androgynous transwoman. It is a system of social oppression and diminished opportunities for transpeople that has been employed by capitalism in the US to crush our dreams and our collective spirit.”
We strongly urge everyone to read the full letter themselves at Anhoni’s site, but we just wanted to take a moment to echo Anhoni’s words and applaud her for speaking out and not just, as she writes, being “lulled into submission with a few more well manufactured, feel-good ballads and a bit of good old fashioned T. and A.” The desire to attend such a highly lauded, esteemed event, even in this year of mounting controversy, must have been near-impossible to ignore, but we are at the very least, happy she has brought this all to light and started a public discussion that will hopefully lead to much-needed progress.
You can listen to “Manta Ray” below; additionally, we highly recommend Anhoni’s excellent recent song “4 Degrees”.