The Daily Telegraph
Backlash as Women’s Prize for Fiction opens up to trans authors
THE Women’s Prize for Fiction has updated eligibility rules to include transgender women, resulting in an angry backlash.
The £30,000 literary award was established in 1996 to give female authors a platform, in response to male dominance of the Booker Prize.
Yesterday the trustees put out a statement containing their new definition of what a “woman” is. “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.
“In our terms and conditions, the word ‘woman’ equates to a cis woman, a transgender woman or anyone who is legally defined as a woman or of the female sex,” the statement said.
“Over the past quarter of a century the Prize has publicly championed and amplified a diverse breadth of women’s voices, and holds the principle of freedom of expression among its core values.” It added: “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.”
Authors previously nominated for the award – which was known as the Orange Prize and the Bailey’s Prize under past sponsors – expressed their dismay when the statement was published on social media.
Dr Jane Harris, who was nominated for her debut novel, The Observations (2007), said: “I knew this day would come. They may want to think about changing the title now. The definition here is unclear but from the phrasing it looks as though anyone who identifies as a woman can now be entered for ‘The Women’s Prize’.
“This is good news for all you chaps! Another big-money prize possibility!”
Lissa Evans, twice nominated in the past, tweeted that she had asked her publisher not to submit her most recent novel for the prize.
Julie Bindel, the author, broadcaster and feminist campaigner, said “Women’s Prize for Fiction is now open to men. Progress, eh?” Another person objecting to the terminology in the statement was Akwaeke Emezi, who made headlines last year as the first non-binary transgender author on the longlist.
Emezi said they had been asked to provide information on their sex “as defined by law” in order to submit their new novel, The Death of Vivek Oji, for consideration. Emezi said the request was “a weapon used against trans women”.
Juno Dawson, trans author of young adult fiction, asked people to “show the Prize some love” and said: “The whole point of the Women’s Prize is to raise up marginalised voices. There are few more marginalised people in the world than those who defy gender norms.”
Graham Linehan, creator of The IT Crowd, has claimed that Channel 4 removed an episode of the sitcom from its streaming platform because it contained jokes about a trans character.
Linehan shared a letter from the broadcaster, which said that “whilst this episode is undeniably a feat of great comic ingenuity… [it] ultimately risks appearing to endorse the view that trans women are in fact men”.