Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie faces backlash after saying trans women are not real women

Jasmine Andersson

Prominent feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has responded to critics after making remarks in a TV interview that transgender women are not real women.

The Nigerian author, who has penned tracts such as We Should All Be Feminists and novel Americanah, said that any experience of male privilege means that trans communities can only be regarded as "transwomen".

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Appearing on Channel Four earlier in the week, the Nigerian novelist said: "When people talk about, 'Are trans women women?' my feeling is trans women are trans 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.

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"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."

Ngozi Adichie then went on to explain at the Women of the World festival that the remarks were then "misunderstood by people who felt I was somehow saying that trans women were not part of feminism or not part of women's issues", she told the audience.

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"It's dishonest and I don't believe that we should insist on saying that the person who is born female and has experienced life as a woman has the same experiences of somebody who has transitioned as an adult. I don't think it's the same thing. I just don't think it has to be the same thing in order for us to be supportive."

The remarks resulted in a backlash in several feminist communities, with black transgender activist Raquel Willis remarking that the trans community "can speak for ourselves", and welcomed an open debate with the award-winning writer.

Germaine Greer frustrated some Brighton residents after she was given a platform to speak on International Women's Day in spite of her derogatory comments about the trans community.

BBC Woman's Hour host Jenni Murray has recently faced criticism for writing a Sunday Times article in which she said that "trans women are not real women".

Speaking about the first transgender host of Loose Women, India Willoughby, Murray remarked: "India held firmly to her belief that she was a 'real woman', ignoring the fact that she had spent all of her life before her transition enjoying the privileged position in our society generally accorded to a man."

Responding to the remarks, Rachel Cohen, campaigns director of Stonewall, said: "Trans women have every right to have their identity and experiences respected, too. They are women – just like you and me – and their sense of their gender is as engrained in their identity as yours or mine.

"Being trans is not about 'sex changes' and clothes – it's about an innate sense of self. To imply anything other than this is reductive and hurtful to many trans people who are only trying to live life as their authentic selves."

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