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Friday, October 23, 2020

Women’s Prize clarifies entrants ‘must be legally defined as female’ after Akwaeke Emezi refuses to participate in future

In 2019, Akwaeke Emezi became the first non-binary transgender author to be nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction for Freshwater

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | October 6, 2020 1:25:23 pm
Akwaeke Emezi wrote a long Twitter thread explicating her stand. (Source: Akwaeke Emezi/Twitter)

After Akwaeke Emezi decided against submitting their future novels to Women’s Prize on being asked information regarding their sex as defined by “law”, the prize has issued a statement. Shared on social media, it has been stated, “In our terms and conditions, the word ‘woman’ equates to a cis woman, a transgender woman or anyone who is legally identified as a woman or of the female sex.”

In 2019, Akwaeke Emezi became the first non-binary transgender author to be nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction for Freshwater. However, the author has decided against participating in the prize in the future after they were asked for information regarding their sex as defined by law. In a long Twitter thread, the author detailed their experience, stating further that they arrived at the decision after asked by their publisher if they considered submitting their second novel The Death of Vivek Oji. It was then that they realised that nothing had changed.

“Popping back in to kick a hornet’s nest Upside-down face My novels will not be submitted for the Women’s Prize. Their origin story is that men were excluding them w/the Booker, so when FRESHWATER was longlisted, I hoped it was a sign that they gave thought to who *they* were excluding,” they wrote. “That visibility brought a ton of violent shit my way, they got quite some publicity from it, and decided to change…nothing. I hadn’t even thought about a replay (Face vomiting) until my publisher reached out to ask how I wanted to proceed with VIVEK. They’d already been in touch with the Women’s Prize, who had informed them: ‘The information we would require from you regards Akwaeke Emezi’s sex as defined by law.’ Ew,” they wrote.

Commenting on the use of language and the myopic vision of the prize, they further added, “Forget about me—I don’t want this prize—but anyone who uses this kind of language does not f*ck with trans women either, so when they say it’s for women, they mean cis women. And yes, this does mean that them longlisting FW was transphobic. It’s fine for me not to be eligible because I’m not a woman! But you not about to be out here on some ‘sex as defined by law’ like that’s not a weapon used against trans women. I haven’t even been on Twitter but the ripples of the transphobic violence spearheaded by You-Know-Who are still being felt. The force of her hatred for people who are minding their business and trying not to get murdered is really something, but we can be loud too.”

They concluded the thread by expressing disappointment. “As a kid, if you told me that my favourite author would turn out to be a violent bigot and that my own books would be getting recommended as an alternative to hers, I would’ve laughed in your face. But here we are, Dark Lady and all. Much disappoint. Anyway, just stating all this because the virulent transphobia in the UK literary world is annoying me. I did make an awesome post on IG the other day telling transphobes to die mad and honestly? Constant mood. 13/10 would recommend. Bye!”

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