Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pens lengthy essay punching down on ‘two queer writers’ during Pride Month
Feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a blistering essay condemning two queer writers who criticised her views on trans women.
The best-selling Nigerian-American writer published the essay, titled “It Is Obscene”, on Tuesday (15 June). It attracted so much attention that her website temporarily crashed.
Her fierce polemic hits out at young people on social media “who are choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion”, part of a generation “so terrified of having the wrong opinions that they have robbed themselves of the opportunity to think and to learn and to grow”.
It focuses on her interactions with two unnamed people who attended her Lagos writing workshop. Both later criticised Adiche on social media following her comments in 2017 that “a trans woman is a trans woman”.
Chimamanda’s 2017 take on trans women over which she was called transphobic. pic.twitter.com/QVr13omRAd
— Stephen Kenechukwu (@Kayceewrights) June 16, 2021
Adiche said she had welcomed the first of the pupils into her life as a friend and was stunned when she “went on social media and insulted me” in response to the interview.
“She could have emailed or called or texted me. Instead she put on a public performance,” she wrote.
“It is a simple story – you got close to a famous person, you publicly insulted the famous person to aggrandise yourself, the famous person cut you off, you sent emails and texts that were ignored, and you then decided to go on social media to peddle falsehoods.”
The second target of Adiche’s essay is believed to be the non-binary trans author Akwaeke Emezi, who has spoken at length about Adichie’s “actively harmful” views.
“Let me be clear,” Emezi tweeted in 2020, “You cannot support trans people and [Adiche] without holding her accountable for the harm she is lending her power to, without centring trans people over celebrity, without sacrificing the pedestal you put her on.”
In another tweet they stated that those who would deny trans children gender-affirming care are “trying to kill them”, adding: “That’s what Adichie also supports”.
A reminder that several of your favorite cishet African women writers share similar opinions on trans people as She Who Must Not Be Named 🙃
— akwaeke emezi (@azemezi) November 12, 2020
Adichie had edited and written an introduction to Emezi’s novel, “Freshwater”, but just two days after it was was published she demanded her name be removed from the cover due to Emezi’s tweets.
Adiche said she felt it was “unseemly” for her name to be used by an author who had called her a “murderer”.
“You publicly call me a murderer AND still feel entitled to benefit from my name? You use my name (without my permission) to sell your book AND then throw an ugly tantrum when someone makes a reference to it?” she wrote.
“What kind of monstrous entitlement, what kind of perverse self-absorption, what utter lack of self-awareness, what unheeding heartlessness, what frightening immaturity makes a person act this way?”
On Wednesday, Emezi posted a video on Instagram which partially responded to Adichie’s essay. “I am not going to read what home girl wrote and do like a blow-by-blow rebuttal of it, because I am not even going to read it. Because it doesn’t affect my life,” they said.
“I am just going to poke my head in, remind us that we matter, that we are important, that our worlds are f**king bigger than anything that these people can ever imagine and that we don’t ever have to be legible to them. We don’t have to be validated by them.”
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While Adichie’s essay attracted support from some circles, others questioned her decision to punch down on two queer writers during Pride Month.
The Zimbabwean-American writer and activist Zoé Samudzi asked: “Chimamanda flexed her fingers at two Nigerian queer/trans writers during Pride Month to do what… exactly?”
Some drew parallels with JK Rowling’s lengthy anti-trans essay, which was also published during Pride Month last year.
Her website is down, surely flooded with traffic, but Chimamanda flexed her fingers at two Nigerian queer/trans writers during Pride month to do what…exactly?
— Zoé (@ztsamudzi) June 15, 2021
Just take a break, ne? Maybe she and JK meet up for cupcakes and leave the queers alone?
— Zoé (@ztsamudzi) June 15, 2021
Hmm Chimamanda’s essay…it was not in good taste for her to drop it during Pride month.
— Soulbird🕊️ (@SoulbirdRise) June 16, 2021
Chimamanda basically doubled down on her initial transphobic remarks from 2017 (showing that her faux apology was exactly that) & threw a queer writer under the bus during Pride Month. I think it should be remembered that at Abantu she referred to critiques as “trans noise” –
— Athena’s Uncool Cool Dad🇿🇦🇿🇼 (@claudius_jr) June 16, 2021
My heart is heavy after reading #Chimamanda ‘s essay.
Here we are again.
Another pride month, another author and their essay…
— Evdokia (@velvetreads) June 16, 2021
Chimamanda decided to retaliate against a trans author, on weak grounds, during Pride month, then goes on to complain that people aren’t free to speak and learn online. She’s helping to create the very atmosphere she’s complained about in her essay.
— Soulbird🕊️ (@SoulbirdRise) June 17, 2021
Adichie concludes her essay with a criticism of “certain young people today like these two from my writing workshop”, describing as “obscene” their “passionate performance of virtue that is well executed in the public space of Twitter but not in the intimate space of friendship”.
“We have a generation of young people on social media so terrified of having the wrong opinions that they have robbed themselves of the opportunity to think and to learn and to grow,” Adichie wrote.
“I have spoken to young people who tell me they are terrified to tweet anything, that they read and reread their tweets because they fear they will be attacked by their own. The assumption of good faith is dead.
“What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene.”