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Channel 4 News

A Trans Woman’s Response to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Raquel Willis
Mar 11, 2017 · 2 min read

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie being asked about trans women is like Lena Dunham being asked about Black women. It doesn’t work. We can speak for ourselves. She needs to take a lesson from herself on the danger of a single story because cisgender hegemony is dangerous.

We know what you mean when you say “Trans women are trans women,” but can’t simply say trans women are women.

Cis women don’t need to feel threatened by trans womanhood. If you feel that your identity and experience means less because trans women exist, that’s your problem. When you belittle and devalue trans women and their womanhood, you are operating as a tool of the patriarchy.

Just like white women historically felt threatened by Black women claiming their womanhood on their terms, cis women constantly do a similar thing to trans women.

Trans women aren’t saying that their experiences are just like cis women, just as queer women don’t claim their experiences are just like straight women. The average woman is cisgender. That does not make her womanhood more valid. All it says is that trans women are a marginalized group that should be elevated and protected.

Yes, folks raised as girls are plagued with oppression in a different way than people raised not raised as girls. No one ever denies that. However, cis girls and women — in general — experience the privilege of being seen, accepted and respected in their womanhood from birth.

The violence that gender nonconforming kids face is real and always left out of this essentialist conversation. This whole conversation falls apart now that we have more and more trans folks coming out at younger ages. Also, you conveniently leave out trans masculine folks. That doesn’t negate the threat of violence, or harassment or being devalued in a patriarchal society — but many trans women also face these things.

Do we ever tell a cis woman she’s less of a woman if she’s never experienced harassment or violence? No.

A trans woman in Brazil was beaten to death in the street because of her womanhood. Five Black trans women in U.S. were killed in February for the same reason. Trans women have historically been hypersexualized in the media, exploited for their bodies in other ways, paid less, denied healthcare and told their voices are invalid.

If you want to play the Oppression Olympics, sorry cis women, you’re going to lose more often than not. That’s why this conversation isn’t productive. If that were the case many of your rich, white faves wouldn’t be “real women” either.

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