I became aware of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s interview on U.K.’s Channel 4 News on my Twitter feed over the weekend. Promoting her new book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Adichie commented on gender identity, specifically about trans women. “When people talk about “Are trans women women?” my feeling is trans women are trans women.”…
I became aware of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s interview on U.K.’s Channel 4 News on my Twitter feed over the weekend. Promoting her new book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Adichie commented on gender identity, specifically about trans women.
“When people talk about “Are trans women women?” my feeling is trans women are trans women.” she said in the interview. If anyone was in doubt about the scope of Adichie’s feminism, that comment basically sums up her feminist politics and exposes it flaws.
The logic behind her transmisogyny, which is shared by cisgender women like Adichie, is that trans women were once men born into privilege, and their claim to womanhood is illegitimate because it is devoid of the lived experience that women have.
“It’s about the way the world treats us and I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges of the world accords to men and then sort of changed or switched gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate to your experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.” she said further.
First of all, Adichie isn’t qualified to speak about trans women and their experience because she is insulated with the privilege that comes from cisgender hegemony. And trans women doesn’t just wake one morning and decide to “switch” their gender. Some don’t even “switch” at all. Clearly, Adichie doesn’t know how gender identity works: the perception of self that trumps biology and any kind of ideology.
Importantly, her disacknowledgement of trans women in her feminist work allows for a violence against trans women to thrive. As a cisgender man, I’m aware of my male privilege, whether I actively choose to benefit from it or not. Like Adichie, I don’t have the trans experience, which is why this brilliant piece by Nigerian-American non-binary trans writer Jarune Uwujaren is well-suited in deconstructing Adichie’s feminism in relation to trans womanhood.
“Adichie has shut down a white man trying to define racism with a swiftness and called out ‘the danger of a single story,’ yet here she is telling a single (inaccurate) story about trans women as a cisgender feminist who appears to have little knowledge of trans experiences.” Uwujaren wrote.
Even Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox took to Twitter to educate Adichie about her trans experience. “Narrative which suggests that all trans women transition from male privilege erases a lot of experiences and isn’t intersectional.” Cox tweeted.
Perhaps, this recent controversy by Adichie is merely a tactic to push out her new book; it is reminiscent of the natural hair controversy that stemmed from her last full-length novel Americanah published in 2013. Whichever the case, and given the huge platform she has, Adichie’s trans exclusionary view is dangerous and doesn’t embody true feminism.