Amazon overrules employees' calls to stop selling book questioning mainstream treatment for transgender youth

Katherine Anne Long, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Amazon has refused to stop selling a book that doctors and transgender advocates have said advances a narrative of transgender identity as a disease after employees asked the company to yank the title from its digital shelves.

Dozens of Amazon employees backed an internal complaint lodged in April arguing the book, "Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters," by journalist Abigail Shrier, violates Amazon's policy against selling books "that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness," according to images of the complaint and responses viewed by The Seattle Times. Leaders of Amazon's affinity group for LGBTQ+ employees, Glamazon, also asked the company to drop the book, according to Slack messages viewed by The Seattle Times.

"As a proud Amazonian and a queer person, I invite Amazon to do the right thing and remove this book from our offerings globally," wrote the employee in the initial complaint.

In an interview Monday, Shrier said that her book "does not in any way come out against [gender] transition, certainly not for adults." Instead, she said, she opposed what she called the "fast-tracking of youth" into surgical or hormonal therapies, which medical professionals have said does not happen.

On April 23, Amazon's director of book content risk and quality posted on an internal message board that Amazon would not stop selling "Irreversible Damage." "Amazon has an internal process for evaluating the appropriateness of books and we have shared your feedback," the director wrote. "In this case, the process included gathering feedback from Glamazon board members and the Books Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team. After examining the content of the book in detail and calibrating with senior leadership, we have confirmed that it does not violate our content policy."

Employees affiliated with Glamazon, though, said they were dissatisfied with the company's decision to keep selling "Irreversible Damage." "We've been fighting this for months," a Glamazon board member told other employees last week, according to images of Slack messages viewed by The Seattle Times. "We were consulted. We told them it's transphobic and needs to be removed."


Amazon did not respond to questions for this article.

Amazon's decision comes amid both increased scrutiny of how tech platforms vet the content on their platforms, and a rising tide of anti-transgender legislation.

Earlier this year, Amazon stopped selling the 2018 book "When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment," announcing that it would no longer allow books framing transgender and other sexual identities as mental illnesses on its platform.

"Irreversible Damage" falls into that category, said many of the Amazon employees calling for its removal. The book, which opens with a chapter titled "Contagion," aims to examine what it calls "the current trans epidemic plaguing teenage girls." (Shrier said it was unfair to examine "words taken at random from my book" and that she was using the medical terminology figuratively.)


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