News: Transphobic Open Letter to the Women’s Prize for Fiction

Thursday, 8 April 2021 – On 10 March 2021, the Women’s Prize for Fiction announced its 2021 long-list. Alongside 15 nominees, Torrey Peters became the first trans woman to be nominated for the £30,000 prize with her debut novel Detransition, Baby, published by Penguin Random House.

On 6 April 2021, the Wild Woman Writing Club penned an open letter to the prize directors and trustees, introducing themselves as “concerned readers and authors”, but choosing to remain anonymous in their distaste for the inclusion of Peters’ work on the long list.

Rather than take accountability for their words, the group signed the letter on behalf of a number of long-dead female authors such as Emily Dickinson and Charlotte Bronë (though choosing to sign her male pseudonym, Currer Bell).

On 7 April 2021, the Women’s Prize released a statement: “The Women’s Prize for Fiction has always aimed to honour, celebrate and champion women’s voices. […] The Prize’s eligibility rules remain unchanged since it was launched 26 years ago: anyone who is legally defined as a woman can be entered for the Prize by a publisher. The Prize’s terms and conditions are very clear and the word ‘woman’ equates to a cis woman, or a transgender woman who is legally defined as a woman. The Women’s Prize Trust, the charity behind the Women’s Prize for Fiction, is legally bound to gender definitions as set out in law by its charitable articles and the endowment fund from a private donor which supports the Prize.”

The Women’s Prize is no stranger to criticism from the non-binary community after author Akwaeke Emezi, who was long-listed for the 2019 prize with their novel Freshwater, was told that to enter another book, they would have to provide legal proof of their sex. “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”, Emezi commented on Twitter.

Judging chair and Booker-prize winner 2019 Bernardine Evaristo tweeted: “Lest anyone be in any doubt as to where I stand on this issue. My dedication for GWO, as below…”

“For the sisters & the sistas & the sistahs & the sistren & the women & the womxn & the wimmin & the womyn & our brethren & our bredrin & our brothers & our bruvs & our men & our mandem & the LGBTQI+ members of the human family.”

Girl, Woman, Other

The sixteen long-listed novels include: Because of You by Dawn French, Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi, Consent by Annabel Lyon, Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters, Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones, Luster by Raven Leilani, No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers, Summer by Ali Smith, The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, and Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller.

The shortlist will be announced on 28 April 2021 and the winner will be announced on 7 July 2021.

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