Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on trans blowback: ‘I have nothing to apologize for’
Recently, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came under fire when she said that the experience of trans women could not be equated to those of women who were assigned female gender at birth, and she stands by her statement, decrying the blowback as “language orthodoxy.”
“This is fundamentally about language orthodoxy,” she said during an event organized by the bookshop Politics & Prose on Monday. “There’s a part of me that resists this sort of thing because I don’t think it’s helpful to insist that unless you want to use the exact language I want you to use, I will not listen to what you’re saying.
“From the very beginning, I think it’s been quite clear that there’s no way I could possibly say that trans women are not women. It’s the sort of thing to me that’s obvious, so I start from that obvious premise. Of course they are women but in talking about feminism and gender and all of that, it’s important for us to acknowledge the differences in experience of gender. That’s really what my point is.”
As to whether or not she would apologize for her comments, Adichie responded with a resounding ‘no.’
“I didn’t apologise because I don’t think I have anything to apologise for,” she said on Monday. “What’s interesting to me is this is in many ways about language and I think it also illustrates the less pleasant aspects of the American left, that there sometimes is a kind of language orthodoxy that you’re supposed to participate in, and when you don’t there’s a kind of backlash that gets very personal and very hostile and very closed to debate.
“Had I said, ‘a cis woman is a cis woman, and a trans woman is a trans woman’, I don’t think I would get all the crap that I’m getting, but that’s actually really what I was saying.
“But because ‘cis’ is not a part of my vocabulary – it just isn’t – it really becomes about language and the reason I find that troubling is to insist that you have to speak in a certain way and use certain expressions, otherwise we cannot have a conversation, can close up debate. And if we can’t have conversations, we can’t have progress.”