Amid various controversies gripping the world right now, the latest is in the world of books. The Trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation put forth a statement detailing the abolishment of the post held by Emma Nicholson, as honorary vice president. Nicholson had voted against the same-sex marriage bill in 2013.
— The Booker Prizes (@TheBookerPrizes) June 24, 2020
In the statement, they wrote, “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 issues are complex, but our principles are clear. We deplore racism, homophobia and transphobia – and do not discriminate on any grounds.”
They added, “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.”
“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,” they concluded.
This comes after Damian Barr, along with other writers challenged Nicholson’s presence in the Booker Foundation. According to a report in The Guardian, Barr was privy to Nicholson’s association with the prize earlier this week. It came about after model and transgender activist, Munroe Bergdorf cleared she was bullied by Nicholson. A report in Daily Mail Online states that Nicholson referred to Bergdorf as a “weird creature”. The model further added on Instagram, “In addition to calling me ‘a weird creature’ and sharing transphobic memes featuring abuse that I received three years ago, reframed as if I said it myself. She has also deliberately misgendered me and begun retweeting dangerous propaganda from anti-trans hate group Transgender Trend, who actively go into schools to disseminate anti-trans rhetoric TO CHILDREN AND TEACHERS.”
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Until yesterday I didn't know who Emma Nicholson, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, was. In addition to being a member of UK Parliament in The House of Lords, a Conservative peer and Vice President of @thebookerprizes. She is also business partners with JK ROWLING at @wearelumos and a follower of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism, or as they call it Gender Critical Feminism. In addition to calling me "a weird creature" and sharing transphobic memes featuring abuse that I received three years ago, reframed as if I said it myself. She has also deliberately misgendered me and begun retweeting dangerous propaganda from anti-trans hate group Transgender Trend, who actively go into schools to disseminate anti-trans rhetoric TO CHILDREN AND TEACHERS. Her followers are also sickeningly accusing me of SOLICITING CHILDREN because I publicly offered personal support to trans kids on twitter. As patron of @mermaidsgender charity and someone who dedicates so much time and energy into campaigning for trans kids to have a voice, I'm absolutely disgusted that a member of The House of Lords is able to behave this way. This is not okay. If you want to help, please head to the link in my bio or swipe up in my stories. Thank you for all your support with this. I appreciate you all. xxx
The same report in The Guardian noted that Barr tweeted, “As a gay writer I feel very concerned that a person who is actively and publicly propagating homophobic views holds a position of such power & prestige in your rightly esteemed organisation.” His Twitter account is now locked.
It also needs to be mentioned that a day before Booker Foundation abolished Nicholson’s role, they had distanced themselves from her stance. In a statement issued, they had said, “The Trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation wish to point out that the views expressed by Baroness Nicholson on transgender issues are her own personal views. Baroness Nicholson has herself recently said that she retired as a Trustee of the Foundation in 2009, and was then made an honorary vice president. She has no role in the governance or operations of the Foundation. She is not involved in selecting the judges nor in choosing the books that are longlisted, shortlisted and win.”
— The Booker Prizes (@TheBookerPrizes) June 23, 2020
Bergdorf expressed her gratitude on social media.
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See what happens when we all stand up TOGETHER against bigotry! Thank you to each and every one of you who emailled, called, posted and held @thebookerprizes and Baroness Nicholson accountable. This is by no means a perfect win. Other people shouldn't have to lose out on their honorary roles because of one mean spirited person. But at least this is progress for LGBTQ+ writers, who deserve equality within the literary industry. Always speak up, always speak out. Munroe x
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