why anohni wants ‘rainbow flag-toting gays’ to speak up on other issues

The unapologetic performer isn't letting the LGBT community off the hook when it comes to police brutality and climate change.

by Hannah Ongley
11 April 2016, 5:43pm

Since becoming the second openly transgender person nominated for an Academy Award, and boycotting the ceremony in a heart-wrenching open letter upon finding out she wouldn't be performing, Anohni has made it clear that she's not here to be everyone's friendly neighborhood trans activist. Since taking direct aim at entertainment industry exploitation in her essay last month, the former driving force behind Antony and the Johnsons has been hard at work on her new solo album, HOPELESSNESS. Clearly this isn't a record about sunshine and lollipops. "I haven't spent a lot of time expressing anger in my life, so this record is a new chapter," Anohni told The Guardian over the weekend. "Anger is energizing: it's quite an empowering feeling."

One thing she's particularly pessimistic about is members of the LGBT community who make noise about gay rights while keeping quiet on issues like climate change. Police brutality is also a cause of much of her anger. "Black boys are being killed in the streets by idiotic policemen - it's so fucking real," she says. "So it's not wrong to fight for justice for your special-interest group. But we've been deceived into thinking that's the endgame. You look at those rainbow flag-toting, goggle-eyed gays that think they've hit the jackpot now they can have heterosexual privileges. What are they going to say when they're bobbing in the greenhouse tides? 'But… I thought we won… I can get married now, I didn't have anything else to fight for.' It's not all about you!"

Last month the political performer dropped a heavy-hitting video for her new single "Drone Bomb Me," featuring a crying Naomi Campbell. "It's a love song from the perspective of a girl in Afghanistan, say a nine-year-old girl whose family's been killed by a drone bomb," Anohni told Radio One's Annie Mac. Her previous single "4 Degrees" was a subversive warning about climate change. 

Anohni also discusses the beauty and complexity of trans identity, revealing that she has considered herself trans since she was just five years old. "'She' used to make my skin crawl," she says now. "Within a gay context it can be used very snidely: to contain trans people and to denigrate other men. But working and socializing with women, and doing [campaign group] Future Feminism, empowered me in the feminine, and I could accept that it was OK to be the way I am. But I don't feel emphatically female, it's more subtle than that."

HOPELESSNESS is due out on May 6 via Rough Trade. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Youtube

climate change
police brutality
Gay Rights