There’s a unified understanding that people from diverse walks of life have diverse experiences. Chimamanda Ngozi received some heat on Friday (Mar. 10) in trying to express the differences in feminism for transgender women and cisgender women.
The author spoke with U.K.’s Channel 4 in promotion of her book, Dear Ijeawele Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. The clip begins with Ngozi saying “transgender women are transgender women,” leaving room for interpretation, insinuating an exclusive definition of who exactly is included in the conversation of women. It was clear that this is the way black queer transgender activist Raquel Willis received it. Willis delivered a succession of tweets in response to Ngozi’s claims that “it’s difficult for me to… equate your [transgender women] experience to the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning, in the world as a woman.”
That was enough to fire up the passion in Willis to defend her own community. She suggests that Ngozi “take a lesson from herself on the danger of a single story” and compares Ngozi speaking on the behalf of trans women to Lena Dunham being asked about black women: “it doesn’t work.” In a response article that Raquel Willis released through The Root, she denotes Ngozi’s double-sided claims as the problem, stating: “She began gaslighting transgender people. On one hand, she wanted to give the appearance of inclusion and understanding, but on the other, she stripped trans women of their womanhood.”
Chimamanda Ngozi felt that her views were misinterpreted, so she took to Facebook to clear them up. While she declares “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,” the double-entendre nature of Ngozi’s comments, as expressed by Willis, are still much prevalent.
“I do not believe that the experience of a trans woman is the same as that of a person born female,” Ngozi says, “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 socialization. And our socialization shapes how we occupy our space in the world.”
While Ngozi is entitled to have her own opinion regarding any issue, a lesson in any activism book is when it comes to the deeper dynamics of any marginalized community, that marginalized community should be the only ones speaking on their behalf—as Willis suggested. To pin off of Ngozi’s own ideology, only trans people can fully understand the plights of trans people.