At least two Amazon employees have resigned in recent weeks to protest the company’s decision to continue selling a book they say mentions young people who identify as transgender as mentally ill.
The resignations come after a complaint posted on the company’s internal bulletin board in April drew support from more than 467 Amazon employees, according to a copy obtained by NBC News. Last year, the company employed more than 1.3 million people worldwide and is the second largest employer in the United States.
The workers’ complaint refers to a decision Amazon shared with Republican senators in March, saying it had “chosen not to sell books that present LGBTQ + identity as a mental illness.”
The employee-led petition calls for the removal of Abigail Shrier’s book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze That Seduces Our Daughters”. In it, Shrier explores what she calls a “trans epidemic” of young girls who identify as transgender. The book is currently ranked among the first, second, and third bestsellers – for hardcover, softcover, and Kindle editions – in Amazon’s category of “LGBTQ + Demographic Studies”.
While Shrier denies that her book presents LGBTQ identities as a form of mental illness, Amazon employees pointed to a passage where Shrier writes: “A lot of teenage girls suddenly identifying as transgender seemed to be caught in a ‘craze.’ – a cultural enthusiasm that spreads like a virus. Shrier goes on to define craze as “crowd mental illness.” Elsewhere in the book, Shrier compares therapists who assert the sex of transgender patients to a youngster’s claim of anorexia by agreeing that he is fat. “We wouldn’t think such a therapist was compassionate. We might think she was a monster, ”writes Shrier.
One of the employees who resigned following Amazon’s decision to continue selling the book, Selene Xenia, a software engineer who identifies as trans and worked at Amazon for seven years, said she was left in June after learning that the company would still carry the title. She was more satisfied with a decision made by Amazon several months earlier to stop publishing another book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” because of its framing of transgender identity as a form of mental illness. But she says Amazon’s latest move to keep selling “irreversible damage” has gone too far.
“The book literally[craze] in the title and considers being transgender to be a mental illness in many ways throughout the book, ”said Xenia.
“I found it extremely hypocritical that Amazon said it would store this book and not another similar one,” Xenia said. “It appears that Amazon had to pull this particular book down for PR reasons, not because they felt morally obligated to do so.”
Shrier said in a statement, “This problem will not go away just because some disgruntled Amazon employees would like it to. And banning the book won’t help these girls or anyone else.
She added, “My book does everything possible to honor the experiences of transgender adults, never denigrates them, and never implies that trans identity is a mental illness.”
Shrier testified before Congress against the passage of the Equality Act this year, which would provide non-discriminatory federal protections to the civil rights of LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, credit and education. The bill was passed by the House in February and is now awaiting a vote in the Senate.
In response to the announcement in May that some employees were against Amazon selling the book, Shrier wrote on Twitter that “anyone who thinks my book” brings forward a story of transgender identity as a disease “hasn’t read it, or is a bona fide idiot.”
Cecelia Fan, a spokesperson for Amazon, said in a statement that the company is dedicated to providing access to diverse perspectives.
“As a bookseller, we believe that providing access to written speech and a variety of viewpoints is one of the most important things we do, even when those views differ from our own positions or those from Amazon, ”Fan said. Last year, Amazon blocked the sale of a self-published e-book that claimed the harms of the coronavirus were overrated, but reversed its decision after Elon Musk tweeted that the company’s decision was ” crazy woman “. Amazon has also removed books by David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as books by George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party.
Amazon is one of the largest online booksellers in the world and the decisions it makes about what to host and what not to host in its marketplace can have serious consequences for the distribution of a book, said Morgan Weiland, Affiliate researcher at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society whose work focuses on technology policy and constitutional law.
When Amazon employees published the complaint in April about the company’s internal ticketing system, the Seattle Times reported that Amazon’s director of risk and content policy for Amazon’s books had posted on an internal bulletin board. that management had met with a resource group of LGBTQ + employees and reviewed the book. Amazon officials concluded that this does not violate the company’s policy on selling books that present LGBTQ + identities as a mental illness.
“If Amazon wants to be content neutral, they should say so,” Weiland said. “If they are to have policies, they should apply them. They are doomed to be in trouble if they don’t apply their policies consistently.”
In an internal thread of the complaint obtained by NBC News, several employees expressed concerns that the book is listed as a bestseller and appears as the top result when searching for books on transgender topics on Amazon.
“Because of our success and scale, our clients will come to us to learn about their transgender children,” wrote one employee. “We have a responsibility to ensure that we do not use our powerful market position to amplify the damage caused by this book.”
Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs at PEN America, a nonprofit that works to defend the freedom of expression of writers, said in a statement that if employees are free to oppose the content of a book or debating a company’s policies, selling a book is not the same as endorsing it.
“As much of our information landscape becomes siled and divided into ideological bubbles, it is increasingly essential that major booksellers retain the right to offer a diversity of perspectives, so that the public can read , be informed and assess the validity of the ideas presented by any book for themselves, ”said Lopez.
“The best way for critics to challenge or delegitimize the ideas in this book is to publicly confront them with facts and counter-arguments, not to censor them from circulation. “
Health professionals who specialize in serving transgender and gender nonconforming youth say books like Shrier’s are troubling because they can be read by parents as general resources.
“My concern is that people are turning to this book for advice on these things rather than to professional societies, including mine, which all have observed and have for some years now found that gender-affirming care for young people is medically. necessary and that there is a scientific basis. to provide such care, which in some cases saves the lives of young people, ”said Dr. Erica Anderson, clinical psychologist at the Child and Adolescent Gender Center and president of the United States Professional Association for Transgender Health.
Last year, Target decided to remove “Irreversible Damage” from its shelves after activists responded. But the company reinstated the book the next day after critics claimed its withdrawal removed Shrier’s free speech rights. Shrier said in a online interview in March that Target had again stopped selling the book. Target did not respond to requests for comment.