The singer and artist Anohni, who is nominated for an original song Oscar for her song "Manta Ray," has issued a searing statement in which she announced that she will be boycotting the Sunday awards ceremony.
"Last night I tried to force myself to get on the plane to fly to LA for all the nominee events, but the feelings of embarrassment and anger knocked me back, and I couldn’t get on the plane," she wrote in her statement. "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."
Describing herself as "the only transgender performer ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award," Anohni detailed a series of slights that led to her decision. Excited at the news of her nomination when it was announced, she returned from Asia to prepare a performance "in case the music nominees would be asked to perform."
She continued: "A week later, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and the Weekend (sic) 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."
The statement continues, "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."
That in itself isn't surprising. A nomination doesn't guarantee a performance on Oscar night. But as the weeks passed, wrote Anohni, she found it "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."
So, she said, she decided to skip her flight: "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."
In the statement, Anohni clarified her frustrations: "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 US to crush our dreams and our collective spirit."
For those reasons and more, she said, she will skip the Oscars on Sunday. "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."
She concluded with an indictment of the ceremony: "They have been paid to do a little tap dance to occupy you while Rome burns."
The entire statement is available at the Antony and the Johnsons' website.