The Daily Telegraph

Back­lash as Women’s Prize for Fic­tion opens up to trans au­thors

- By Anita Singh arts and en­ter­tain­ment editor

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”.

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