Opinion: Why ANOHNI’s Yelling Won’t Help A Thing

The world is full of issues. It’s far from a perfect place. This isn’t a new idea. Most people by the age of 20 understand this, and while they shouldn’t give up on trying to make the world a better place, focus is needed. Being angry at everything will help nothing. You have to take justice one step at a time, change societal views and norms. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and anyone who thinks they can make it happen that fast is misguided.

This brings me to ANOHNI, formerly known as Antony Hergarty, of Antony and The Johnsons. She’s also transgender, identifying as such from her birth. In a recent interview with The Guardian, she discussed her career, her upcoming album, and the way that she uses her pop music as a political medium. It’s an interesting read if you’re into her music, but several things struck me. The article goes onto say “For Anohni, squabbles about identity are a distraction from the real issues,” which is was really stuck out to me.

In the article, Anohni expresses anger at the disguising of what is described as the “real issues.” But it’s what she classifies as real issues that both frustrates and worries me.

I should just declare before we get any further in that I’m pansexual. That is, I don’t care what your gender is, attraction is attraction. As such, it could be said that I fall within the label of the LGBTI* community. I also have lesbian mothers, and have been very pro-rights for the gay community. I declare this because I don’t want anyone to think that my thoughts on ANOHNI and her comments come from a sense of anger at her being transgender, or vilified by her comments. That’s not the case.

But when she comes out and states that the gay community is silencing other issues by pushing for their rights, I’m going to get pissed.

“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!”

Actually, that’s where you’re wrong, ANOHNI. It is all about them. Suffering is relative. Telling gay people to get over themselves when they are still denied the same rights as those who are same-sex attracted is not only extremely pretentious, but it’s harmful. You’re saying “Oh, your issues don’t matter because others have it worse.” Sure, others have it worse, but we still have it pretty fucking bad. People still get bashed for holding hands with someone of the same sex. In Australian Federal Parliament, debates rage over the legitimacy of programs designed to help same-sex attracted or trans kids facing bullying. Films depicting same-sex relationships such as Gayby Baby still cause outrage amongst conservative parents. Society still has shuns people with identity issues, so ignoring it will turn it into one of your so-called “real issues.”

And as for your idea that we’ve been tricked into thinking it’s an endgame: no one who is legitimately fighting for human rights thinks that marriage equality is the end. Not even Ivan Hinton-Teoh, the former deputy national director of Australian Marriage Equality, a man who was briefly wed to his husband in the time where the Australian Capital Territory allowed same-sex marriage, believes this as well. We asked Hinton-Teoh what his thoughts were on this comment:

“[Marriage Equality] certainly isn’t the endgame, but a milestone in the journey. Until we, as a nation actively address issues like LGBTI youth homelessness, incidence of suicide, unemployment & violence, legal recognition of trans identity & laws around family that vary across the country & address issues around children born with intersex conditions, among other issues, there will remain work to be done.”

My friend once quipped to me “Why are there gay pride parades, but never a gay humility parade?” It’s a funny prospect, isn’t it? But when you think about it, the reason becomes clear: we aren’t at that stage in our society where we can do that. You need to build up a sense of pride before you can reign it in. So calling identity issues “fake problems” is troublesome.

Reading the interview, it seems like ANOHNI is all over the place with her anger. And yeah, it’s good to be angry at injustice. That’s the right response. But belittling someone else’s struggles because you feel it’s not as important as others, that’s the wrong approach. You can’t just scream “THIS SUCKS” into the world and expect it to change.

Music is an important avenue for political messages, but there comes a time when action has to actually be taken. Society won’t just change because you will it.

And this is at the heart of why I was so frustrated with ANOHNI’s comments, in a broader sense. It’s not just that calling the everyday struggles of those people tearing themselves apart inside as “fake” or “distracting” is regressive and harmful, but it’s also ridiculously smug. It’s as if she’s saying, “Oh, while everyone is focussed on the petty issues, I’m the only one calling out the real problems.” The biggest issue facing the modern left today isn’t inaction, it’s that many liberals are so insufferable. One need only look as far as Oliver Stone’s recent trailer for Snowden. I understand that teenagers are filled with angst, because they’re learning just how shitty the world is. But as you grow up, you realise that simply yelling about everything wrong with the world won’t fix it. There’s a reason Rage Against The Machine stopped making music. This is how we got nu-metal!

So yeah, I’m pissed off. Not just at ANOHNI’s comments, as misguided and harmful as they were, but at the sheer pretentiousness of telling someone their problems don’t matter that much. But hey, I’m mad and yelling about it, so maybe I’m just part of the fucking problem.

Image: axs