Anohni made history as the second transgender individual to receive an Oscar nomination (the late Angela Morley, a transgender composer, received two nominations for The Little Prince and The Slipper and the Rose). In an essay for Pitchfork, Anohni elaborated on her surprise and excitement over the nomination, and then the anger and sadness that came after realizing as one of the five nominated Original Song performers, she wouldn't be performing.
"Manta Ray" her musical contribution to the documentary Racing Extinction, was nominated alongside the likes of Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, and the Weeknd, but she and "Simple Song #3" performer, Sumi Jo, were left off the lineup in favor of The Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl.
In her poignant personal essay, Anohni acknowledges that she perhaps isn't well-known enough to be "commercially viable," but that the omission once again reminded her of the challenges she's faced her entire life. After sharing some of the struggles, Anohni declared she wouldn't be attending the Oscars.
Below are four important points to take away from Anohni's decision to forgo the Oscars:
The power of her nomination was slowly belittled by her absence as a performer, and then by the media attention because of the omission:
"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.
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."
Her absence isn't because she wasn't chosen to perform, but because of the system that has consistently overlooked her:
"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.
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."
Anohni has dealt with more rejection than most, but has always spoke her truth:
"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.
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."
She won't be supporting an institution like the Academy that doesn't support her:
"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."