Transgender Nominee Anohni to Boycott the Oscars

Oscars: Anohni, First Transgender Performer Nominated,
Photo by Inez & Vinoodh

Anohni, the first transgender performer ever to be nominated for an Oscar, has penned an essay for Pitchfork about why she will be skipping the ceremony this year.

The singer is nominated for best original song for “Manta Ray,” a collaboration with J. Ralph from documentary “Racing Extinction.” While other best original song nominees Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and the Weeknd will be performing during the broadcast, Anohni’s performance was cut due to time constraints (which Variety first reported, as mentioned in the essay).

“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,” the essay begins. Anohni adds: “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.”

Anohni goes on to address the feelings of humiliation and disappointment she experienced as a result of the exclusion, before concluding with a blistering critique of the Academy.

“I have decided not to attend the Academy Awards this election year,” Anohni writes. “I will not be lulled into submission with a few more well manufactured, feel-good ballads and a bit of good old fashioned T. and A. They are going to try to convince us that they have our best interests at heart by waving flags for identity politics and fake moral issues. But don’t forget that many of these celebrities are the trophies of billionaire corporations whose only intention it is to manipulate you into giving them your consent and the last of your money. They have been paid to do a little tap dance to occupy you while Rome burns. These are the last days of a great American fake-out sponsored by ExxonMobil, Walmart, Amazon, Google, and Philip Morris. America, a country that is no longer contained by physical borders, aspires only for more power and control. I want to maximize my usefulness and advocate for the preservation of biodiversity and the pursuit of human decency within my sphere of influence.”

Read the full essay below:

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 ’70s 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.

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.

It was degrading to watch the articles in Variety, The Daily Telegraph, Pitchfork, Stereogum, etc. start to appear. Eclipsing earlier notices of congratulations, now the papers were naming me as one of two artists to have been “cut” by the Academy due to “time constraints.” In the next sentence it was announced that Dave Grohl, not nominated in any category, had been added to the list of performers.

Everyone told me that I still ought to attend, that a walk down the red carpet would still be “good for my career.”

Last night I tried to force myself to get on the plane to fly to L.A. for all the nominee events, but the feelings of embarrassment and anger knocked me back, and I couldn’t get on the plane. I imagined how it would feel for me to sit amongst all those Hollywood stars, some of the brave ones approaching me with sad faces and condolences. There I was, feeling a sting of shame that reminded me of America’s earliest affirmations of my inadequacy as a transperson. I turned around at the airport and went back home.

As if to rub salt into the wound, the next morning the Oscars added that I was transgendered to the trivia page of their website.

I want to be clear — I know that I wasn’t excluded from the performance directly because I am transgendered. I was not invited to perform because I am relatively unknown in the U.S., singing a song about ecocide, and that might not sell advertising space. It is not me that is picking the performers for the night, and I know that I don’t have an automatic right to be asked.

But if you trace the trail of breadcrumbs, 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 U.S. to crush our dreams and our collective spirit.

I was told during my 20s and 30s there was no chance that someone like me could have a career in music, and this perspective was reiterated by so many industry “professionals” and media outlets that I lost count. I almost gave up. Thankfully, fellow artists like Lou Reed advocated for me so intensely that I got a foothold despite the worst intentions of others. In that sense, I am one of the luckiest people in the world.

I enjoy that wild and reckless exhilaration that comes from naming my truth as best as I can; it is what Nina Simone might have called a “boon.” The truth is that I was not groomed for stardom and watered down for your enjoyment. As a transgendered artist, I have always occupied a place outside of the mainstream. I have gladly paid a price for speaking my truth in the face of loathing and idiocy.

At the age of 35 I was awarded the UK’s Mercury Prize. All the nominees were invited to perform that night. They lifted me from obscurity and celebrated me, setting off a chain of events that changed my life forever.

Now ten years later, I have sung for millions of people in some of the most beautiful theaters in the world, from the London Opera House to a tiny shed full of Aboriginal women elders in the Western Australian desert. I have accomplished so many of my dreams. I have collaborated with musicians and artists whom I deeply respect. I have held space for feminism, eco-consciousness, and trans advocacy for two decades. I have been afforded a platform to participate in the cultural conversation.

I brought my earnings from around the world home to New York City and paid my taxes. That money was spent by the U.S. government on Guantanamo Bay, drone bombs, surveillance, capital punishment, prisons for whistleblowers, corporate subsidies and bank bailouts.

In the United States it is all about money: those who have it and those who don’t. Identity politics are often used as a smokescreen to distract us from this viral culture of wealth extraction. When we are not extracting wealth from nature, we are extracting it from the working and middle classes.

So I have decided not to attend the Academy Awards this election year. I will not be lulled into submission with a few more well manufactured, feel-good ballads and a bit of good old fashioned T. and A. They are going to try to convince us that they have our best interests at heart by waving flags for identity politics and fake moral issues. But don’t forget that many of these celebrities are the trophies of billionaire corporations whose only intention it is to manipulate you into giving them your consent and the last of your money. They have been paid to do a little tap dance to occupy you while Rome burns. These are the last days of a great American fake-out sponsored by ExxonMobil, Walmart, Amazon, Google, and Philip Morris. America, a country that is no longer contained by physical borders, aspires only for more power and control. I want to maximize my usefulness and advocate for the preservation of biodiversity and the pursuit of human decency within my sphere of influence. 

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    1. Donna says:

      Just be thankful for the nomination you self centered idiot….you want more, you need more, you deserve more, you are insulted so easily instead of wrapping yourself in your achievement……
      get off your high horse you self centered child who needs so much attention. GEEEEEZZZZZZZZ!

    2. Sam says:

      Abohni has a wonderful voice and is a true artist. It would be great to see her perform. however the fact that she’s not performing is not a personal attack. There are probably commercial reasons for it. Like it or not she’s a part of this business. It seems she would have gone if she were performing, which makes her anti-corporate tirade less credible and more likely a trantrum than anything else.

    3. Lee says:

      It’s interesting that Anohni doesn’t mention the massive, multi-million dollar cosmetic and medical industries who are profiting off of the bodieseof perfectly health individuals who simply don’t conform to rigid gender sterotypes, risking their long term physical and mental health. And who are indoctrinating children that their bodies are somehow ‘wrong’ and need to be ‘fixed’ with medical and cosmetic intervention.

    4. Mike says:

      So sad. She should really make an effort to go if only for the free food. She could take the girl who got fired from Yelp as her date as her fellow special snowflake has been living on rice for a year.

    5. BillUSA says:

      I would love to be able to watch the Oscars again, but the selfish politicizing of an increasing number of activists disguised as actors has made it impossible to escape to a place where reality had no place. In other words, watching movies used to be escapism. Now they’ve not only been hijacked by grandstanding activists but the award ceremonies have been too.

      Personally, I don’t care what someone wishes to do for their sexual satisfaction as long as it doesn’t harm anyone or encroach upon someone else’s right to privacy. But I get so tired of being brow-beaten by people parading as icons for the homosexual and so-called trans-gendered communities at almost every turn when I watch movies, read newspapers, peruse the internet or watch television.

      And that’s the thing. Their business is being shoved into my face in the misguided notion that I’m going to surrender to their bullshit. No, you weren’t born “that way”. No, you can’t change your sexual identity. You can fool yourself all day long believing the opposite be true, but at the end of the day, you are able to choose your sexual preferences and the “equipment” you were born with is your identity forever.

      But Hollywood has never made a dime portraying reality.

      • Holly Wood says:

        Almost forgot – Hollywood’s actually made quite a lot of money portraying reality, but it’s also made a lot of money making up stories. What’s your point?

      • Holly Wood says:

        That’s one of the best, most lucid and relevant posts I’ve read on this subject. You’ve put into words what many think about the ridiculous politicization of all of this nonsense over a popularity contest that no one has to watch and very few people really care about.

        I just wish you’d left out the last paragraph. It has nothing to do with the larger issue, and you’re wrong: not everyone can choose their sexual preferences. I’m assuming you’re straight. Could you choose to be gay? You’re smarter than to make that kind of claim.

        But otherwise, thanks for a great post.

    6. Tony Machete says:

      Don’t be so hard on yourself troll

    7. Tony Machete says:

      The Oscars have always been about nominating and showcasing the artists who will bring the highest ratings.

      That is why it is mostly the same actors and directors in the leading categories each year–someone like Stallone who was nominated this year purely as a ratings grab.

      If they were truly interested in nominating and awarding the best actors and directors the nominations would mostly go to people you’ve never heard of.

      Bottom line: the Academy Awards have never truly recognized the greatest contributions to film each year and should not be taken seriously.

      • Holly Wood says:

        No, they haven’t. In fact, the Best Picture nominees are rarely the highest grossing films, and the biggest boxoffice stars rarely win.

        It’s not even close to “mostly the same actors and directors” every year. Eddie Redmayne? Almost completely unknown until he won Best Actor last year, and most moviegoers still don’t know who he is. The movie he was in was a low budget biopic about an astrophysicist.

        Julianne Moore? An indie favorite but hardly a boxoffice star who won best actress for her performance in another low budget film, a movie that grossed a total of 20M LESS than Tom Cruise was paid for the latest installment of Mission Impossible.

        Birdman won Best Picture. An experimental indie that also got its director Best Director.

        Where do you get your idiotic ideas?

        Bottom Line: The Academy Awards show is a popularity contest held by the voters who belong to the Academy. It’s not writing foreign policy, it’s a TV show. Of course it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

        Go away, troll.

    8. Felipe says:

      Another attention craver… Pathetic.. And maybe she didnt get asked to perform because shes not as popular as the other artists? Why would she take offense to a situation she fabricated in her head? And were celebrating these people? Yet another disappointment for americans, we should literally be ashamed, we are the joke of the world

      • Don't Mind Me Now says:

        Considering how even the most obscure songs were usually still performed at the Oscars, I’d be a little pissed if I got nominated but was then barred from actually performing. Does anyone ACTUALLY remember “The Moon Song” from “Her” that got performed two years ago (outside of people who constantly watch that movie for whatever reason)?

        This is just another step in the Academy saying “We have no need anymore to acknowledge people who aren’t the biggest stars in the world. Why should we bother giving people who aren’t as popular as Sam Smith and Lady GaGa career-bolstering exposure?” And before you call ratings on me, do you really think anyone’s going to be thinking “Man, I really wasn’t planning on watching the Oscars, but now that Dave Grohl’s performing I just HAVE to watch it now!” Yeah, probably not. (And I actually like Dave Grohl.)

        Anyway, hope you enjoy listening to shitty pop songs that you hear every day on the radio at what’s supposed to be a celebration of film, because that’s what you’re going to get from now on!

      • Tony Machete says:

        You should have to be born and raised in America as an American to even get nominated.

        No more of those fancy pants Europeans or other foreigners!!!

    9. Said in LA says:

      The generation of bitch and moan.

    10. Holly Wood says:

      That’s what happens when the Academy nominates someone from a group that complains about not being nominated.

      Shame on you, Anohni. Shameful whinging like yours sets transgenders back 100 years.

    11. Annette says:

      Being snubbed does not rise to the level of humiliation.

      It’s a shame right? Not wanting to celebrate the extraordinary achievement of being nominated for an Academy Award with the actual people who voted for you.

      I will not be winning an Oscar this year. But Anohni might. And she’ll be somewhere else — making a teeny-tiny point.

    12. Two Cents says:

      I stopped paying attention to the Best Song category since Henry Mancini and his contemporaries died (he knew how to compose ’em). With very few exceptions, the Best Song category has been a sad joke for years. Eliminate the category altogether; the show will certainly be shorter and punchier.
      ;

    13. tlsnyder42 says:

      Good riddance. Diversity of skin color and “gender” is evil. It lowers standards and forces people to go along with the phony radical leftist chic of the day, which is, in reality, a fascist movement. “‘Social justice’ is opposed to individual justice” – Author Ben Shapiro (BULLIES) at CSU-L.A. Feb. 25, 2016. Take a stand against the new Brownshirts of the Left!

    14. Hohn D. says:

      It will not be missed.

    15. Bill B. says:

      She’s absolutely right, but the category shouldn’t even exist. Unless it’s a musical, songs have very little to do with film making and some of the nominees (and winners) have been embarrassing many, many times. I think the only reason they keep this category is because it gives them something to do on the telecast.

    16. Jan says:

      Commenters here are as idiotic as always. She makes clear in the letter that she’s boycotting it due to the insensitivity in not inviting her and some of her fellow nominees to perform simply because they’re lesser known. There is no doubt that it is disrespectful and shameful on the part of the Academy and the telecast producers. Either cut all nominated songs or include them; to deny the opportunity of exposure to real artists in favor of the Billboard 100-listers is a real sham.

      • Nanny Mo says:

        The Academy is shameful? Who would have guessed! The problem here also is that the Academy is a private club that both wants to be a private club and be embraced by the world at large. Hence the stupidity of its new voting rules. The Academy started as a way for the Industry to applaud the works of the Industry but they have turned it into a circus. She/He is not the only one not watching the Oscars this year.

    17. Lisa says:

      And who the phuk is Dave Grohl??? Another Anglo-Saxon White Male? Pfft.

      • Robbie says:

        yes, Jan, that is part of the rhetoric, but she makes very sure to bring up the fact that she’s trans and intimates that the reason she was nominated was because of that (which I doubt since I doubt anyone knew who the hell she was- and still doesn’t, especially with the stupid name change). She’s trying to intimate prejudice was at work here because she’s trans, though she won’t come right out and say it.

    18. Tom says:

      I think they should cut all musical performances from the Oscars, it is a celebration of film not music

      • Nanny Mo says:

        No! It has become a celebration of giving out awards to people based on racist quotas. It used to be a celebration of talent, that ended this year with the boards new rules. It is now about making minorities feel better about themselves and giving into outside pressure. That is nothing to celebrate.

      • Lisa says:

        What? Then they’d have to cut all music from film.

    19. sr says:

      The best songs nominees are dreadful. Not ONE of them should have ever been nominated. Every single song is dreadful. Smith’s sounds like he’s on helium, Weekend….whatever, he’s sings as if his nuts are in a vice and he’s dreadful and who the hell cares what he’s singing about, he mumbles. His performance at the Grammies was so bad I had to change the channel. This transgender boycotted the Oscars, why? Sorry, but I hope this person will never be nominated again. Frankly, I have to agree. If Chris Rock opens his mouth against whites and brings up the crying baby blacks who didn’t get a nom, I think the oscars should end today. The categories for best actor in a film should be broken up for best in a drama, an action/thriller, a horror, a comedy, and for portraying a gay/lesbian/transgender/tranny role. I won’t be surprised if there are some blacks that just might win to appease them. Maybe it’s time for all blacks to discontinue the BET awards, the NAACP awards, the All Black Make-A-Difference Awards, and last Black History Month. Ridiculous.

      • Brock Ubermann says:

        Please calm down and be happy with who you are. Acting like a bigot and lashing out at white people won’t change your lot in life. Stop the hate.

      • Jo Mama says:

        Well, perhaps you should spell correctly and engage in civil dialogue. There are ways to say quite horrendous things while maintaining your decorum and not becoming trash. Oh, and as far as your white anger goes, did you know less than 2% of White (non-Jew) Americans owned slaves? Even in the South less than 5% of White (non-Jew) Americans owned slaves? Have a feeling where I’m going? Over 40% of Jewish homes in America owned slaves. And did you know the slave trade was so Jewish that the slave markets were closed on Jewish holidays? Want to pick up a book and find out who deserves your anger?

    20. Lisa says:

      Brava! But what if she wins? She could give the Oscar to Joni who was nominated for a song last year but then ‘un-nominated’ because of the Academy’s disability of feeling awkward about ‘disabled’ nominees.

    21. Spike says:

      The “cut” wasn’t done with any finesse or senstivity to her. But what she speaks for all Americans in the things she says. The message in this culture is, “Be quiet, consume, and die.” F–K them!

    22. Michael Anthony says:

      Once again, it’s all about the ratings, which is unfortunate. If they are going to perform the noms, then they should perform ALL NOMS. It’s like the Tony only showing 2 of the best musical noms ando omitting the other 2. It’s just not right.

      The Oscars is a shambles. Because Jada us boycotting, they started doing handstands to soothe her, and others, egos. Never mind Jada was in no movie this year and only a few critics said her husband might get nommed. He was not passed over because of race. But, the Academy quickly labeled all their voters as racist.

      All this, and the song fiasco, makes me want to tune out. If Chris Rock starts in on racism, I’ll be turning it off for good. Take note Academy: The voters aren’t racist and let ALL noms perform. If not, you don’t deserve to even hand out Oscars anymore.

    23. fredw says:

      A boycott has no effect if you’re unknown.

    24. Beverly Lurker says:

      Sour grapes more than Social justice

    25. Mtdubs says:

      It sounds like she would have attended if she wasn’t cut from the broadcast. I hope she wasn’t cut because she’s transsexual but because, frankly, she’s not as big a star as the other nominees.

    26. Robbie says:

      She might have a point if she was the only nominee left out, but the truth of the matter is they only wanted the three high profile songs with high profile artists performing, and Simple Song also got the chop. She’s lucky she got a nomination, since her song is an utter snore and the whole category is useless. I agree it’s unfair to single out three and discard the other two, but to make it about bigotry is a flat out lie. But when has truth ever stopped an SJW from hopping on the bandwagon?

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