Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (pictured), a world-renowned author and novelist from Nigeria learned something the hard way after doing a televised interview on a British TV channel.
Adichie, 39, learned that when you’re a public figure and make statements out in the open about members of the LGBTQ community, their supporters are going to come for you. Adichie is a writer whose work is centered on the feminist cause.
However, Adichie may have alienated herself from much of her Western fan base during an interview she conducted on the U.K.’s Channel 4. Adichie did the televised interview earlier this week to promote her newly released book titled Dear Ijeawele Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.
During her interview, Adichie began giving her opinions about transgender women, which set off a firestorm of criticism on Twitter. Adichie was quoted as saying the following on U.K.’s Channel 4:
“I think the whole problem of gender in the world is about our experiences. It’s not about how we wear our hair or whether we have a vagina or a penis. 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.”
A video clip of Adichie making her comments during the Channel 4 interview went viral. The Twitter backlash she received came abruptly after the video clip appeared online. Raquel Willis, a Black queer transgender activist and the communications associate for the Transgender Law Center was one of the Twitter users who came for Adichie.
Willis made a litany of tweets that chipped away at Adichie’s credibility as an advocate of the transgender community. “Chimamanda being asked about trans women is like Lena Dunham being asked about Black women. It doesn’t work. We can speak for ourselves,” Willis wrote.
“We know exactly what you mean when you say, “Trans women are trans women,” but can’t simply say, “trans women are women,” she continued.
As a notable feminist author, Adichie probably put herself in an awkward position by attempting to define transgender women whilst not being a member of their community. Many transgender women are sympathetic to the feminist cause, however.
Adichie could benefit from having a skilled publicist in her corner who is very knowledgeable about the Western public relations climate. Hate it or love it, there is one thing that doesn’t fly in the Western world of public opinion: Insulting members of the LGBTQ community.
People have lost their careers and had their livelihoods tremendously affected by making ill-advised statements, which were labeled as offensive to gays, lesbians, transgender men, and transgender women. Is this fair? Some would argue no.
However, the severe repercussions of verbally attacking or even overly criticizing the LGBTQ existence or lifestyle is a testament to the solidarity and unity of this community’s members. People who seek justice for their particular demographic group could learn a lot by observing how the LGBTQ community advocates for itself.