Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Draws Heat For Her Comments About Trans Women

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Draws Heat For Her 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 below, 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 she can’t equate transgender women and women because they’ve had different life experiences. 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 may have received fundamentally sets their experiences apart from those of cisgender women.

“I think that trans women are trans women. I think the whole problem of gender in the world is about our experiences. It’s not about how we wear our hair or whether we have a vagina or 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 changed, switched 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 in the world as a woman, and who has not been accorded those privileges that men have.”

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.twee1twee12twee13

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:twee2twee3twee4Pictures (3)
Pictures (2)

Adichie posted the following comments on her Facebook page on Saturday morning: twee11


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  1. Henrie
    March 12, 07:31 Reply

    Her fixation on the previous privileges experienced by transwomen is exactly what I fail to get. There is no stipulated degree of misogyny or patriarchy a woman must suffer to be successfully classified as a woman. While mainstream transphobes argue that transwomen are not real women cause of biology, Chimamanda merely argued hers from sociology hence it’s not surprising to see many transphobic people agree with her. Her statement that transwomen are transwomen might seem nice and even respectful until we hear her rationale behind her statement then it’s no longer that embracing anymore.

    • Pink Panther
      March 12, 07:38 Reply

      When I first saw the video and heard her remarks, I eondered: so the child who becomes transgendered at, say, 8, and grows up a woman, does that mean we can say she’s enough to be woman because she didn’t have years to enjoy the patriachial privileges she talked about?

      • Henrie
        March 12, 07:57 Reply

        Indeed. And as Laverne Cox has tweeted, not every transgendered person previously enjoyed male privileges. The general perception that a macho man suddenly went through a reassignment surgery to be a woman is false. There is also no general experience of gender. “The irony of my life is that prior to transition I was called a woman, after transitioning, I am called a man.”

  2. Zephyr
    March 12, 07:32 Reply

    Honestly, I see nothing wrong with what Chimamanda said. She said what she said! Her point is direct and very individualistic. No one should hold it against her. The most important thing is she understands and respects the existence of trans women. Whichever way she sees it is her own take on feminism. They better suck it up!

    • Pink Panther
      March 12, 07:35 Reply

      They better suck it up? That’s a very insensitive way to address a minority who are being marginalised.

    • Jamie 2.0
      March 12, 08:09 Reply

      Everyone slips. And when many people realise that you slipped, they criticise. It’s left for you to admit and change, or venerate yourself if misunderstood. Ngozi wouldn’t say this to her critics….and I wonder why you have to, with all comfort. It then sounds more like you echoing another transphobic opinion…

  3. Ray
    March 12, 08:39 Reply

    I’m sorry guys but she is right.
    Transwomen are transwomen transwomen and not women; hence the classification “trans”. Y’all liberals fail to get it…there is a degree of liberty that the largely conservative world can accord you. While the liberals want everything given to them, you can’t and must not erode the underlying fabrics of society. It’s always a give and take. Transwomen are transgender and the world has come to recognise that. That’s the most it can go. It cannot not categories them as women.

    • IBK
      March 12, 09:44 Reply

      You really need to re-educate yourself on what it means to be Trans or rather what gender and sex is before you come and say they aren’t women.

      And what’s this about eroding the underlying fabrics of society? Society changes.. Do you know the number of things that have changed over time. Really though.. I’m. Inclined to think you’re just unnecessarily pessimistic or Transphobic.

      And its Trans woman.. Not Transwoman.. Trans is being used as an adjective in this case.

    • Mitch
      March 12, 10:27 Reply

      This comment packs so much ignorance cloaked under the faux of pseudo-intellectualism, I don’t even know where to start.

      Oga Ray, please go and get educated on the concept of gender and societal constructs and barriers to gender expressions as well as Trans-sexuality. Honestly! It’d do you a world of good

  4. Vhar.
    March 12, 09:07 Reply

    We come to conclusions, every day, about people’s genders without ever seeing their birth certificates, their chromosomes, their genitals, their reproductive systems, their childhood socialisation, or their “legal sex”. There is no such thing as a “real” gender experience! There is only the gender we experience ourselves as.

    It’s like saying a downlow married gay man who finally come out as gay is being seen and called “straight” by folks who knew him as straight because he experienced and enjoyed the “straight experience”. How very incredulous!

    For every cis-woman who has burned her bra, there’s a man burning to wear one – and not because they think it’ll be fun to wear one. Not every queer person, man or woman accepted their sexuality outrightly. Same goes for Transgenders. Hence their late “experience(s)” of the gender they transition into. Who’s to say they wouldn’t have given everything they had to “experience” the highs and lows of their preferred gender if they’d been given the choice at birth?!

    Transgender women are WOMEN. Don’t categorise them! Don’t put them in a box. Just Don’t!



    • Pink Panther
      March 12, 09:20 Reply

      My God, this comment gave me a braingasm!!!

    • Mitch
      March 12, 10:03 Reply

      This, right here, is the gospel!

      Thank you, Vhar

  5. Simba
    March 12, 09:15 Reply

    Are we basing womanhood on prior experience of inequality or discrimination?? So what happens to privileged white women or daughters born into wealth? So those ain’t gonna be women enough?.

  6. Adichie
    March 12, 09:31 Reply

    Baby girl didn’t say trans women ain’t women. She said “They are women, but they didn’t experience the gender inequality melted on women, that they enjoyed the privileges of been men before transition” Though I agree with Laverne Cox that not all trans women enjoyed the rights of men. So please understand my girl well.

  7. Mitch
    March 12, 10:22 Reply

    Chimamanda’s statement stems from looking only at society’s reactions, behaviors and respect accorded to ‘physically male folks’. She failed to understand that gender is beyond the societal construct of physically male or female. People are born in bodies that can literally be said are not theirs.

    Besides, I seriously doubt she took to cognizance the mental and emotional distress Trans women feel in their wrong bodies. And again, the ‘acceptance’ (if it can be called that) which society gives to cis-women is severely lacking when it comes to Trans-women.

    I’m really surprised, and kinda disappointed in Chimamanda’s views on this one

  8. Kritzmoritz
    March 12, 10:28 Reply

    I don’t understand trans issues fully. I will not sit hear and say I do. I feel that the same way straight folks feel threatened by gay issues is the way I feel about trans people. I don’t understand alot but am trying to. It’s not that I don’t know what trans people issues are all about. It’s just that I am lost In seeking the operative / collective experience that is fair and equitable for all.

    I took some heat recently when I asked for trans people to be trans people and not be classified any other way. People assumed my comments came out offhandedly and labelled me transphobic. Possibly, I was.

    But not exactly. I think it had to do with a recent sporting event where a trans girl won gold in a wrestling championship for girls and I was asking if that was exactly fair.? When intersexed Caster Semenya blew the women field away at the Olympics, testosterone and testis and all, I asked if that was fair? It’s not just about the bathroom manners anym nor the organs between the legs. We have to be able to accept that there are so many issues yet to be resolved within the gulf that divides.

    Personal experiences are deeply rooted within that gulf. And while it is important to embrace those experiences fully, it is also important to do so on common ground.

    I think that finding that common ground is the work we must do for gracious cohabitation, peace and understanding.

    Questioning the status quo may be drawn out of fear but it is from questions we find answers. It is wrong therefore to label chimamanda’s comments as transphobic even when she accepts there’s enough space in feminism for different experiences

    • Delle
      March 12, 13:06 Reply

      When you say btye Caster girl won because of her testosterone, you imply the women folk are weak (which to me is wrong and very small-minded seeing as there are lots of women stronger and more physically fit than guys). That’s quite chauvinistic.

      • pete
        March 12, 13:32 Reply

        Compare the athletic records of men and female on the same discipline and you will realise his comment is not chauvinistic. Testosterone is an athletic enhancer. There’s a limit expected to be seen in a woman’s body. Caster surpasses that because she’s intersex. That was why she was undergoing treatment and her times reduced until she won her case at CAS.

        Understanding the trans community is an ongoing process for everyone and I’ll like sporting associations to do something. A trans woman competing with cis women have advantages that will be seen as borderline cheating

        • Kritzmoritz
          March 12, 17:16 Reply

          Thanks Pete.
          I would have been lost how to stoop to explain this… seeing that the language the comments came with were much too unctuous to elicit a response

          • Delle
            March 13, 17:46 Reply

            You are not going to blame me for your inadequacy in giving a good justification for your stance. Next time, rather than look to throw flimsy and weightless jabs, do well to defend your standpoint. Pete won’t always be there.

  9. Canis VY Majoris
    March 12, 11:15 Reply

    Sigh. This will last till the end of time, because every one will have an opinion (something to say).

    However, just so you know: “Opinion” is the lowest form of human knowledge, it requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self-kind of understanding – Bill Bullard.

    So before you come here to rally behind our dear Chichi, know that she can’t be right all the time & I’d dare say her thought on this subject matter is quite erroneous. But its okay, she’s only human too.

  10. Delle
    March 12, 13:02 Reply

    Because it’s Amanda, many would want to throw reasoning to the wind and sieve out sense from whatever it is she voices out. But Ngozi is only but human and as such isn’t bound to be correct all the time.

    You can’t generalise life and what it comes with. No two persons have the same experiences.
    She was too fallacious. Even ciswomen do not have the same experiences.
    You can’t put gender in a box. You can’t restrict what someone feels to a “sanctioned” majority. The experiences of a ciswoman isn’t a benchmark cos it varies.

    And then she talks about 30 years of being a man before transitioning? What of the transgirls of 5, 6 and so on coming out on a daily? Already living the lives of the average woman. Doesn’t that invalidate the point?
    Adichie reclined on her seat. A woman is a woman.
    Experience doesn’t define a majority.

  11. Icarus
    March 12, 14:49 Reply

    Chimamanda’s logic might not be perfect but her comments are far from transphobic. All I see is someone trying to pass a message but instead is using the wrong words because of a lot of holes in her logic not because of some deep-seated transphobia but because she like a lot of cis-women who although are accepting of transwomen do not fully understand what it means to be one.

    • Jamie 2.0
      March 12, 16:30 Reply

      So true!! But a lot of people that I know keep insisting she’s right; and that bores me….

  12. Bain
    March 12, 14:50 Reply

    What makes a woman(female experience)?
    Answer this logically,then remind yourself that not all biological woman (female by birth) experience these,e.g child birth,Menstruation,hormonal changes.Due to one issue or the other.

    so em?,are we going go cross our arms,stamp our feet’s,close our minds and say they are not women too, because they didnt have those experiences?,even though they were born female.
    that’s the small space in between where trans women slip in.
    trans women are women.

  13. John Adewoye
    March 12, 20:28 Reply

    I was in counseling with a grandma who was concerned about her transitioning grandson going granddaughter. Concern was how the society would react to her. “I read that trans-women get killed by gay men, she said!” She said the granddaughter seemed determined about her transitioning to a female despite the above threat. Grandma said the granddaughter gave excuse of her inner suffering and confusion that make her struggle between the apparent nature that make people think she is a gender non conforming; and the concealed inner struggle that show her whom she really is. She seemed sure she will feel her authentic self and reduce both the society glare at her after the transition. She dresses as a woman already.
    If this lady’s thought is the experience of every trans-woman, I wondered where Chimamanda got her concept of trans life in “the world as a man, with the privileges that the world accords to men” from?
    Life is complex, Chimamanda has the reason to be confused. But I hope she will be more educated on this issue after this outcry.

  14. Edo
    March 12, 21:58 Reply

    What has the world turned into? trans women are NOT women! stop being sentimental! b cos of sex reassignment surgery? gimme a break. transwomen will still show as XY on a sex genetic testing.

    • Delle
      March 13, 17:49 Reply

      This is a gathering of intellectuals. You’d be doing yourself a lot of good by exiling your finger pads on this forum and do more reading.

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