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Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pens lengthy essay punching down on ‘two queer writers’ during Pride Month

Emma Powys Maurice June 17, 2021
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking at the 2018 Malaria Summit in London (Jack Taylor/Getty)

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”.

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”.

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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A post shared by akwaeke emezi (@azemezi)

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.

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.”

Related topics: cancel culture, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, social media, transphobia

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