Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Under Fire For Comments About Trans Women

Feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has found herself at the center of a controversy over gender identity after comments she made about transgender women during an interview, which can be viewed in the clip above, recently went viral.

Speaking earlier this week with the U.K.’s Channel 4, Adichie, who is promoting her new book Dear Ijeawele Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, said, “When people talk about, ‘Are trans women women?’ my feeling is trans women are trans women.”

Her argument appears to stem from her idea that because many trans women have been assigned and raised male from birth until whatever point they decided to transition, she believes the male privilege they received fundamentally sets their experiences apart from those of cisgender women.

“I think the whole problem of gender in the world is about our experiences,” she said. “It’s not about how we wear our hair or whether we have a vagina or a penis. 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 that the world accords to men and then sort of change gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.”

While she did also add that she supports transgender people’s existence, saying they should be “allowed to be,” she ultimately asserts that their experiences should not be “conflated” with women’s experiences.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about women’s issues being exactly the same as the issues of trans women because I don’t think that’s true,” she said.

Adichie, who is perhaps best known for her critically and commercially acclaimed book Americanah and a guest spot on Beyoncé’s track “Flawless,” was almost immediately called out on Twitter for her comments.

Someone come get your fave Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and fix her politics around trans women, please. As in like immediately.

— Zoé Samudzi (@ztsamudzi) March 10, 2017

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie really doesn’t understand how trans misogyny works

— Che G. (@chegossett) March 11, 2017

I’ve got all the respect in the world for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie but trans-women ARE women.

— . (@enenicolea) March 11, 2017

Raquel Willis , a Black queer transgender activist and the communications associate for Transgender Law Center , offered an especially thoughtful and nuanced response to Adichie’s comments via a series of tweets she posted on Friday night :

Chimamanda being asked about trans women is like Lena Dunham being asked about Black women. It doesn’t work. We can speak for ourselves.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

We know exactly what you mean when you say, “Trans women are trans women,” but can’t simply say, “trans women are women.”

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

Cis women don’t need to feel threatened by trans womanhood. If your experience means less because trans women exist, that’s your problem.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

When you ostracize and devalue trans women and their womanhood, you are operating as a tool of the patriarchy.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

Just like white women historically felt threatened by Black women claiming womanhood on their terms, cis women feel this toward trans women.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

Trans women aren’t saying their experiences are just like cis women, just as queer women don’t claim theirs are just like straight women.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

The average woman is cis. That does not make her womanhood more valid. All it says is that trans women are on the margins.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

Yes, folks raised as girls are plagued with oppression in a different way than people not raised as girls. No one denies that.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

However, cis girls and women – in general – experience the privilege of being seen, accepted and respected in their gender from birth.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

That doesn’t negate threats of violence, harassment or oppression in a patriarchal society – things trans women of any age also face.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

This convo falls apart with more and more trans folks coming out at younger ages. It also conveniently leaves out transmasculine folks.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

Do we tell a cis woman she’s less of a woman if she says she’s never experienced harassment or violence or overt discrimination? No.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

If you want to play Oppression Olympics, sorry cis women, you’re going to lose more often than not which is why this convo isn’t productive.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

It’s nonsensical and *privileged* to require trans women to experience certain instances of oppression to prove their womanhood.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

If that were the case many of your rich, cishet, white faves wouldn’t be “real women” either.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

We don’t need public debates on trans women. We need trans women elevated and allowed to speak for themselves.

— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 11, 2017

Adichie did not immediately reply to a request from The Huffington Post regarding the comments she made during her Channel 4 interview.

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