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Booker Prize drops Baroness Nicholson as honorary vice president amid homophobia, transphobia and racism row

Patrick Kelleher June 25, 2020
Booker Prize Baroness Nicholson

Baroness Nicholson. (UK Parliament, cropped. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

The Booker Prize has dropped Baroness Nicholson as its honorary vice president over her controversial views on trans people and same-sex marriage.

Organisers of the prestigious literary award came under fire yesterday when they released a statement saying Nicholson’s anti-trans comments were “her own personal views” and said she had “no role in the governance or operations” of the foundation.

Following significant backlash, organisers last night announced that they had decided to abolish Baroness Nicholson’s role completely and sever ties with the controversial life peer.

“We, the trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation, met today and wish to reiterate that the views expressed by Baroness Nicholson on transgender people are her own personal opinions,” the statement said.

“The issues are complex, but our principles are clear. We deplore racism, homophobia and transphobia – and do not discriminate on any grounds.

“Literature is open, plural and questioning. We believe every author’s work should be approached by readers in the same spirit. Integrity is central to both Booker Prizes, whose judging process is conducted at all times in keeping with these values.”

The Booker Prize has scrapped honorary titles after Baroness Nicholson was accused of ‘racism and transphobia’.

The statement continued: “Upon her retirement from the board in 2009, Baroness Nicholson was made an honorary vice president, a role that gave her no say in the governance or operations of the Foundation or prizes.

“In recent days there has been some confusion about the nature of honorary titles used by the Foundation. Too many believe that these titles in some way symbolise the prizes. That is not the case.

“We have today decided that these titles and roles should, with immediate effect, cease to exist. Those holding them have been informed and thanked for their longstanding interest.”

We deplore racism, homophobia and transphobia – and do not discriminate on any grounds.

The decision has been praised by trans youth charity Mermaids.

“Baroness Nicholson’s strange and obsessive tweets attacking our charity with abhorrent accusations and her misgendering of our patron Munroe Bergdorf, represent the very worst in what is already a highly toxic, cruel and misinformed debate around the lives and very existence of trans people,” Mermaids said in a statement.

“While the Booker Prize Foundation continue to receive some criticism for not directly condemning Baroness Nicholson’s tweets, we are pleased to see a clear rejection of racism, homophobia and transphobia.

“This is a moment of reassurance for a community suffering daily attacks from those who would see trans lives humiliated and undermined. We thank the Booker Prize Foundation for taking this bold and principled decision, reminding us all that voicing our oposition to hate and calling out prejudice, cruelty and lies wherever we find it, can still lead to a fairer society for all.”

The charity added: “We hope Baroness Nicholson will find a moment to reflect on whether her virulent opposition to transgender rights is justified or whether she might take time to listen to the vast majority of trans people seeking a voice.”

The decision has also been praised by activists and writers on Twitter.

“An excellent and very appropriate response,” one Twitter user wrote. “There really is no space for transphobia in a reasonable and progressive society. I’m pleased that the Booker Prizes have distanced themselves from such abhorrent views.”

Author Sam Baker tweeted: “Thank you for listening.”

The life peer was condemned after sharing ‘racist and transphobic’ abuse about Black model Munroe Bergdorf.

The decision comes following days of backlash after Baroness Nicholson shared “racist and transphobic” abuse about trans woman Munroe Bergdorf on Twitter.

Earlier this month, Nicholson was also widely condemned when she launched a shocking attack on equal marriage.

In a series of bizarre tweets, she argued that the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2013 has degraded “the status of women and of girls… as a binary class”, seemingly ignoring the many thousands of lesbian, bisexual and queer women who were granted the right to marry with that legislation.

The Booker Prize Foundation had faced significant backlash for refusing to sever ties with Nicholson over her comments.

PinkNews has contacted Baroness Nicholson for comment.

More: baroness nicholson, booker prize, booker prize foundation, Homophobia, munroe bergdorf, racism, same sex marriage, transphobia

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