Award-winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently sat with New Yorker editor David Remnick, as part of the magazine’s 18th annual New Yorker Festival, which took place October 6th through 8th.
In the sit down, Adichie discussed the push back she received when she mentioned she views trans-women as trans-women not women during an exchange in March 2017. “I don’t remember the question,” explained Adichie, “but what I did say was that I think trans women are trans women and that I think there is a difference between trans women and women who are born female.”
Adichie was surprised by the blow back, but more so the nature of the push back, which saw as based on my-way-or-the-highway language descriptive choices. Said Adichie, “And apparently in liberal orthodoxy, you’re not supposed to say that. Because in the quest for inclusiveness, the left is willing to discard a certain kind of complex truth. And I think there’s a quickness to assign ill intent. And you know initially I didn’t take it seriously because I thought surely nobody thinks, I sort of feel that the space I occupy in the world is one that is of course inclusiveness, that of course I couldn’t possibly be suggesting that trans women are not part of feminism, which apparently is how it had been seen. But I think it was simply that I didn’t use the language I was supposed to use. The response is not to debate. The response is to silence. And I find that very troubling.”
The author also discussed her identity as a black person in America versus Nigeria where her color was immaterial. “There was no reason for me to think of myself as black in Nigeria,” adding, “Racism [in America] I found funny, absurd, infuriating.That’s thrust on you. But I think the kind of internalizing of that identity is something you have to do consciously and I did that by reading African-American history by trying to understand because I didn’t really understand America. I didn’t really understand in my first few weeks why the two black people in one of my classes got offended when somebody said something about watermelons.”
Check out the exchange below. Adichie wore a dress designed by Fashpa, as part of her “wear Nigerian” effort to encourage support of designers from her place of birth.