Books | October 6, 2020 12:48 pm

Non-Binary Writer Akwaeke Emezi Slams Women’s Prize for Fiction for Transphobia

Emezi says they will no longer submit their work after being asked to provide information about their sex "as defined by law"

Last year, Akwaeke Emezi became the first non-binary writer to be nominated for the Women's Prize
Last year, Akwaeke Emezi became the first non-binary writer to be nominated for the Women's Prize
Theo Wargo/WireImage

Last year, Akwaeke Emezi became the first non-binary writer to be nominated for the U.K.’s Women’s Prize for fiction. The nomination was considered groundbreaking at the time, with judges calling the nomination of Emezi’s novel Freshwater a “historic moment.” Now, however, Emezi has made it clear they no longer have any interest in the prize after being asked to define their sex “by law,” the Guardian reported.

On Monday, Emezi shared on Twitter that when their publisher attempted to submit Emezi’s latest novel for the prize, they were asked to provide information regarding “Akwaeke Emezi’s sex as defined by law.”

“Forget about me — I don’t want this prize — but anyone who uses this kind of language does not fuck with trans women either, so when they say it’s for women, they mean cis women,” Emezi wrote. “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.”

In response to Emezi’s comments, the Women’s Prize organizers stated that the prize’s definition of a “woman” includes “a cis woman, a transgender woman or anyone who is legally defined as a woman or of the female sex.”

“As a prize which celebrates the voices of women and the experience of being a woman in all its varied forms, we are proud to include as eligible for submission full-length novels written in English by all women,” said Joanna Prior, chair of trustees at the Women’s Prize. “The trustees of the Women’s Prize Trust would like to reassert that we are firmly opposed to any form of discrimination or prejudice on the basis of race, sexuality or gender identity.”

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