Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie doubles down on anti-trans views

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wears a blue dress as she holds a copy of a book.

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has once again aired her views on the lives of trans people, and her comments indicate that she still thinks in the same ‘gender-critical’ way. 

Adichie has drawn widespread criticism from trans advocates since 2017 for seeming to embrace damaging rhetoric championed by gender-critical voices and for dismissing critics when called out. 

The Americanah author had the opportunity to clarify her remarks on the lives of trans people in a recent interview with The Guardian. But her response indicates she remains insensitive to the nuances or sensitivities of the ongoing fight for trans rights. 

Guardian journalist Zoe Williams challenged Adichie’s anti-trans views and got to the core of the author’s tired argument, which hinges on her beliefs around free speech and calling out so-called ‘cancel culture’ as a tool of misdirection. 

In the interview, Adichie described how she’s “known to be controversial” in Nigeria because she’s a “feminist” and said parents claim she’s the reason “their daughters do not want to get married”. 

She also spoke about “this whole trans thing”, referring to her run-ins with the trans community and allies. Adichie sparked outrage in 2017 when she said her “feeling is trans women are trans women” in an interview on Channel 4. She also said trans women could not truly be women because they had experienced male privilege

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Adichie claimed she didn’t “know [she] was walking into anything” when she said something she believed was “self-evident”.

However, it’s clear that Adichie – not her critics or advocates and allies of the trans community – placed herself in this position like many who’ve faced similar outrage for their anti-trans statements. 

From the Guardian journalist’s account of the interview, Adichie appears to have been determined to use hypotheticals to perpetuate harmful rhetoric about trans people – suggesting she is not listening or learning from the marginalised communities she’s hurt.

“So somebody who looks like my brother – he says, ‘I’m a woman’, and walks into the women’s bathroom, and a woman goes, ‘You’re not supposed to be here’, and she’s transphobic?” Adichie said. 

Williams suggested his appearance may be altered in this theoretical story where he was living as a woman. 

“You can look however you want now and say you’re a woman,” she said. 

Women – whether they are trans or cis – don’t look any certain way, conform to societal beauty standards, fit into ‘traditional’ gender norms or come from any one background. 

This divide-and-conquer approach in discussions on the trans community gets it all wrong. Excluding women who are trans hurts all women as it invites gender policy that could subject anyone to invasive tests, accusations of being ‘too masculine’ or disgusting questioning if they are a ‘real’ woman

Williams asked if Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie would support her brother’s imaginary transition “with love” as “treating him with dignity and respect was more important than where he went to the toilet”.

But Adichie argued: “Why can’t they be equal parts of the conversation?”

Williams responded that “dignity is more important”, but Adichie kept banging that anti-trans drum. 

“Not if you consider women’s views to be valid,” Adichie said. “This is what baffles me. Are there no such things as objective truth and facts?”

She added that saying women are ‘threatened’ by trans women “would not reflect the experience of many people”, but she believed it’s “different from saying, ‘Women’s rights are threatened by trans rights.'” 

Adichie’s interview demonstrates she remains rigid in her opposition to the trans community, shown by the way she dresses that opposition up as a righteous cause – the classic modus operandi of anti-trans groups.

It also shows a lack of self-awareness, given that she preached the dangers of perpetuating negative, harmful stereotypes based on a “single story” in her famous 2009 TED Talk

Trans people deserve dignity and respect to live as their authentic selves, and it’s no secret that true feminism must be intersectional and is allied with the trans community

Feminist icon Judith Butler explained that “securing greater freedoms for women” required society to “rethink the category of ‘women’” to include trans women. Butler also slammed trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) and gender-critical pundits for being “allied with right-wing attacks on gender”. 

The “anti-gender ideology” is not seeking to dispute the definition of gender, but to eradicate it “as a concept or discourse, a field of study, an approach to social power” altogether, they said.

Butler added: “The TERFs [trans exclusionary radical feminists] and the so-called gender critical writers have also rejected the important work in feminist philosophy of science showing how culture and nature interact… in favour of a regressive and spurious form of biological essentialism.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie refused to back down from her remarks after being called out for perpetuating anti-trans hate by LGBTQ+ advocates and allies.

She’s also defended JK Rowling, who has faced backlash for her own comments about the trans community, and condemned queer writers who criticised her views on trans women.