On Friday feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave an interview with BBC Channel 4, during which she discussed what she sees as a distinction between the lives of trans and cisgender women. The Americanah author said in part, “I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges 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 are.”
Trans women and their allies subsequently took Adichie to task over the weekend for her comments. On Twitter, Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox offered a look back at her own experience growing up gender nonconforming. Cox did not specifically address Adichie in her tweets, but instead recounted her childhood as a feminine boy, a gender presentation that she recalls being scrutinised and punished by those around her:
I was talking to my twin brother today about whether he believes I had male privilege growing up. I was a very feminine child though I was assigned male at birth.
My gender was constantly policed. I was told I acted like a girl and was bullied and shamed for that. My femininity did not make me feel privileged.
I was a good student and was very much encouraged because of that but I saw cis girls who showed academic promise being nurtured in the black community I grew up in in Mobile, Ala.
Gender exists on a spectrum & the binary narrative which suggests that all trans women transition from male privilege erases a lot of experiences and isn’t intersectional. Gender is constituted differently based on the culture we live in. There’s no universal experience of gender, of womanhood. To suggest that is essentialist & again not intersectional.
Many of our feminist foremothers cautioned against such essentialism & not having an intersectional approach to feminism.
Class, race, sexuality, ability, immigration status, education all influence the ways in which we experience privilege so though I was assigned male at birth I would contend that I did not enjoy male privilege prior to my transition.
Patriarchy and cissexism punished my femininity and gender nonconformity.
The irony of my life is prior to transition I was called a girl and after I am often called a man. Gender policing & the fact that gender binaries can only exist through strict policing complicates the concept of gendered privilege & that’s OK cause it’s complicated.
Intersectionality complicates both male and cis privilege. This is why it is paramount that we continue to lift up diverse trans stories. For too many years there’s been far too few trans stories in the media.
For over 60 years since Christine Jorgensen stepped off the plane from Europe and became the first internationally known trans woman the narrative about trans folks in the media was one of macho guy becomes a woman.
That’s certainly not my story or the stories of many trans folks I know. That narrative often works to reinforce binaries rather than explode them. That explosion is the gender revolution I imagine,one of true gender self determination.”
On Saturday, Adichie clarified her statements, but did not retract them. “Of course trans women are part of feminism,” the author wrote in a post on Facebook. “I do not believe that the experience of a trans woman is the same as that of a person born female. I do not believe that, say, a person who has lived in the world as a man for 30 years experiences gender in the same way as a person female since birth. Gender matters because of socialisation. And our socialisation shapes how we occupy our space in the world. To say this is not to exclude trans women from Feminism or to suggest that trans issues are not feminist issues or to diminish the violence they experience — a violence that is pure misogyny.
This article originally appeared on Vulture ©2017 All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.