Oscar-nominated musician Anohni says the performers speaking out against North Carolina’s anti-trans bathroom law are all “doing the right thing,” whether they cancel their scheduled concerts or use the shows to protest the legislation.
“They’re all having their own responses and deciding their comfort levels,” Anohni, who is a transgender woman, tells EW. (She previously made music under the name Antony and the Johnsons.) “As an artist, you tend to identify your sphere of influence and try to employ that as best you can to hopefully be useful.”
Bruce Springsteen announced earlier this month that he was canceling his concert in Greensboro, North Carolina, to “show solidarity” with the people affected by the HB2 law, which blocks anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and bars transgender people from using bathrooms that do not match the gender they were assigned at birth. Last week, Laura Jane Grace, the transgender frontwoman of the punk band Against Me!, said her band would play its scheduled show as planned, calling the performance “a form of protest.”
Cyndi Lauper also recently announced that she would donate all profits from her Raleigh concert to fight the bill. “The best way I can do my part is to turn my show in Raleigh on June 4 into an entire day to build public support to repeal HB2,” she wrote on her website.
“Bruce Springsteen, by doing that, made a big impact on people, a lot of middle Americans who love Bruce Springsteen,” says Anohni, whose new album Hopelessness arrives May 6. “He definitely broadened the conversation by getting involved. It was very generous of him. And someone like Laura, by staying and performing, she’s making a very similar kind of point coming from a different point of view. They’re all doing a good job.”
Anohni has made similar choices herself. “If there are places where I didn’t feel comfortable with the particular politics, then I just couldn’t do a concert there,” she says. “And I have done that past, but I haven’t particularly announced it.”
Earlier this year, Anohni became the second transgender performer ever nominated for an Oscar when “Manta Ray,” her collaboration with J. Ralph from Racing Extinction, received a nod for Best Original Song. In an essay for Pitchfork, she wrote about her decision not to attend the ceremony after she was left in the dark about whether she would be performing.
“They didn’t take my humanity into account,” Anohni says now. “They could have very easily said at the outset, ‘You’re not going to be performing this year. There won’t be weeks of guessing whether you’re performing or not, and you won’t be left sitting for weeks in a state of high anxiety wondering if you’re performing.'”