The day after a group of cisgender women authors released a transphobic open letter condemning the Women's Prize for Fiction for nominating trans female writer Torrey Peters for its annual award, the U.K. organization behind the Women's Prize responded and did not mince words.
“The prize is firmly opposed to any form of discrimination on the basis of race, age, sexuality, gender identity and all other protected characteristics, and deplores any attempts to malign or bully the judges or the authors,” they wrote in a statement on Twitter.
The statement also made it clear that the eligibility rules for the award have not changed in the 26 years since its inception and that those rules have always included trans women.
“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 statement reads. “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.”
Peters is nominated for her novel Detransition, Baby, about a pair of trans women, one who detransitions and ends up getting her boss pregnant. It’s been widely praised.
The open letter was circulated yesterday. “Making male writers eligible for the sole major women’s literary prize does not ‘break through centuries of patriarchal conditioning,’ neither does it ‘honour, celebrate and champion’ fiction written by women,” the open letter reads. “On the contrary, it communicates powerfully that women authors are unworthy of our own prize, and that it is fine to allow male people to appropriate our honours.”
The letter was signed by members of the Wild Women’s Writing Club, including some members who signed as long dead literary heroes like Daphne Du Maurier, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Willa Cather, and even Emily Dickinson, as they were afraid “of the threat of harassment by trans extremists and/or cancellation by the book industry.” It is unclear why they chose to put the names of women on the letter who did not actually sign it, instead of using a made up pseudonym, but one might assume it's so there were some recognizable names on the list to lend it credibility.
Many authors clapped back at the open letter, with some mocking the use of famous pseudonyms.
Previous nominee Elif Shafack congratulated Peters for her nomination, tweeting “After seeing yesterday’s unacceptable, unethical open letter, we need to say, again and again, #TransWomenareWomen. Trans women writers are my sisters.” Naoise Dolan, who was nominated alongside Peters this year added that Detransition, Baby is “a masterpiece that I’m incredibly proud to be on the longlist with, and that letter is a transphobic disgrace.”
Author Melinda Salisbury had no time for the letter's nonsense. “Just bought a new book! It’s called Detransition, Baby, It was recommended by my good friend, Emily Brontë,” she wrote, “She’s a big fan.” Joanne Harris, another author added that, “If you’re expecting me to believe that you’re not secretly ashamed of your opinions, or embarrassed by your allies, then maybe don’t hide behind a dead person’s identity whilst simultaneously trying to strip someone living of theirs.”
This isn’t the first transphobic attack aimed at Peters since her book was nominated. Back in March she said that “I am proud, but I received, for the first time in my life, a real outpouring of hate – which hurt my feelings and scared me, as it was intended to do … Historically, anytime someone from a marginalized group gets recognized by an award for the first time it’s not necessarily a bucket of fun – but I hope, for the next trans girl to be on this list – it can be.”