Amazon says its ban of transgender-critical book was due to updated content policy

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Amazon says it stopped selling a transgender-critical book because of its framing of “LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”

In a letter issued to several Republican senators on Thursday and first reported by the Wall Street Journal, a senior Amazon official explained why the company recently de-listed a book critical of transgender ideology.

On Feb. 21, scholar Ryan Anderson had said that he was made aware that his book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment was no longer available for sale on Amazon.com. The book, which was sold on Amazon for three years, is still not available nearly three weeks later.

While Amazon initially said the book violated its “content” policy, a senior Amazon official clarified on Thursday that the company has “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”

Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), authored the book which was published in 2018 and was listed for sale on Amazon.com at the time. The book is a scholarly critique of the transgender movement, investigating the biological, psychological, and philosophical areas of the debate over gender ideology.

Anderson tweeted on Thursday that Amazon is trying to close off parts of the transgender debate.

“Everyone agrees that gender dysphoria is a serious condition that causes great suffering. There is a debate, however, which Amazon is seeking to shut down, about how best to treat patients who experience gender dysphoria,” he said.

He responded to claims that his framing of gender dysphoria as a “mental illness” was offensive. Anderson has previously said that he never called people identifying as transgender “mentally ill.” He has also noted that the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists gender dysphoria as a mental disorder.

A publication on the APA’s website notes that “gender non-conformity is not in itself a mental disorder,” but lists gender dysphoria as a disorder, noting that the “dysphoria is from the distress caused by the body and mind not aligning and/or societal marginalization of gender-variant people.”

“So the real deciding factor seems to be whether you endorse hormones and surgery as the proper treatment or counseling,” Anderson tweeted on Friday.

While Amazon initially did not give a reason for the removal of Anderson’s book—saying only that it violated their “content policy”—they have now clarified their policy in the letter to senators.

Several senators were critical of Amazon’s removal of the book, and demanded an explanation from the company. Amazon’s letter on Thursday was sent to the offices of Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Huseman confirmed in his letter to the senators that the company held discussions on the book’s content when it was published in 2018. He also confirmed that the company’s content policy for books had changed between 2018 and 2021.

Anderson told CNA on Feb. 22 that he had not been informed in advance of his book’s removal from Amazon, rather finding out from other people who noticed it wasn’t available for sale on the website.

On the day the book was removed, Amazon had informed the distributor for Anderson’s book of its removal, Huseman explained on Thursday.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) also criticized Amazon this week, in a speech on the Senate Floor.

“The author’s real offence, the only offence, was telling the truth,” he said of Anderson. “He said calmly and compassionately that boys are boys and girls are girls, and the richest man in the world banned his book from his company’s platform.”

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He noted that Amazon customers can still purchase copies of other controversial works, such as Adolf Hitler’s memoir Mein Kampf or the manifesto of the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, Industrial Society and Its Future.

“How dangerous it is for the one of the biggest corporations in the history of the world to start banning books,” Cotton said.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, who directs the Center for Religion, Culture, and Society at the National Review Institute, stated on Thursday that “Ryan's book is hands-down the best and most compassionate book that exists on what people are suffering from sickness and ideology. He is all about the truth in love.”

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