Woolly ideals by liberal activists have no place

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has run into the same backlash she experienced last year when she insisted that transgender women were not ‘women’ in the traditional sense of the word. In an interview on Britain’s Channel 4 News, Adichie said: “When people talk about, ‘Are trans women women?’ my feeling is trans-women are trans-women.”

On the face of it, that’s a pretty innocuous statement. Transgender-women are indeed transgender-women. Put otherwise, they are biological males who feel that they were assigned the wrong gender at birth.

We used to say they felt they were ‘born in the wrong body’ but in this brave new world of political correctness, the acceptable terminology when speaking about the right-body/wrong-body conundrum is to speak in terms of ‘gender assignment’. So you are either ‘assigned female at birth’, or ‘assigned male’.

Writing for The Independent in an article titled ‘Why we should reconsider assigning babies as ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ at birth’ Kashmira Gander argues that children should have more say about their gender identities.

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She writes that, “People are accepting that the gender the midwife assigns us at birth after taking a look at our genitals doesn’t always match up with how we feel inside. That’s why some people identify as transgender, non-binary and queer”.

Weirdly restrictive

Fair enough, I suppose, but if a person whose genitals are those typically associated with a biological male, feels strongly that he should have been born with the genitals typically associated with a biological female, does that make him a woman? I’m not sure. I do know that if he transitions surgically, he then becomes a transgendered woman, who will usually rely on years and years of hormone replacement therapy to maintain a feminine appearance.

That said, as a cisgender woman - a person who was assigned female at birth and who identifies as a woman – it can be argued that I shouldn’t have an opinion on trans-women, and that I should let the trans-community speak for itself. Fair enough. I have not lived the trans-woman experience, and can only comment as an observer. But what a woman is or isn’t is not really my concern.

I’m more concerned about all the labeling and political-correctness that is being advanced by a fringe minority of activists who occupy a liberal space, which should be inclusive, but is weirdly restrictive. These are the folks who will come for you for the simple fact that you have your own opinion.  The folks who spout radical feminist theory and expect the rest of humanity to learn from them how to view the world.

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Revered her

The folks who lynched Adichie on social media, and purported to revoke her feminism card because she refused to apologise for saying what she said, calling her all manner of things from a woman-hater, to a fraud, and even an anti-intellectual.

When she referred to the online backlash as trans-noise, some even called her ‘violent’, presumably because her stance could be perceived as permission to entrench the discrimination against trans-people.

Look, I’m not a Chima fan. I’m familiar with some of her more popular works (who isn’t?) but – at the risk of being labelled an anti-intellectual – have never read any of her books to completion. I’m not averse to her politics but I have found that over the years she has become more of a cultural ‘idol’ than a literary ‘icon’.

As a global culture, we have put her on a pedestal and revered her as a paragon of all that is good, and all that is right. And because the world created her in the image of perfection, it was only a matter of time before she showed herself for who she really is – human.

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She’s a human being with her own thoughts and ideas, which don’t have to line up with what anyone else believes.

For one, I am glad that she refused to bow to pressure. That she stood her ground even as the liberal police were baying for her blood. Not every opinion can be popular.

We all have different thought processes, and no one should be made to feel that they should sit in the corner just because they have a different way of looking at things.

At the end of the day, the true meaning of inclusivity is freedom. Freedom to be whoever you chose to be, to think what you want to think, and say what you want to say. And anyone who feels that they can limit your freedom -barring any legal and constitutional limitations – should consider themselves the oppressor.

Ms Masiga is Peace and Security Editor, The Conversation Africa

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