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Amazon will no longer sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identities as mental illness

The company made the announcement public in a letter responding to Republican senators who asked why it had removed a book by a conservative author from all of its platforms.

Amazon will no longer sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identities as mental illness
Cover Image Source: Books are displayed at the Amazon Books store on November 4, 2015, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Retail giant Amazon will no longer sell books that frame gay, lesbian, transgender, and other sexual identities as a mental illness. According to BBC, the company made the announcement public in a letter responding to Republican senators who asked why it had removed a book by a conservative author from all of its platforms. The letter, first obtained by the Wall Street Journal, addressed criticism from the rightwing senators Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Mike Braun, and Josh Hawley for removing When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment—a book by the conservative academic Ryan Anderson who is best known for his opposition to same-sex marriage—from its online stores, e-book and audiobook platforms last month.



 

 

According to publisher Encounter Books, When Harry Became Sally "provides thoughtful answers to questions arising from our transgender moment" and "exposes the contrast between the media’s sunny depiction of gender fluidity and the often sad reality of living with gender dysphoria." Shortly after Amazon pulled the book on February 21, Republican senators Rubio, Hawley, Braun, and Lee sent a letter to Chief Executive Jeff Bezos requesting an explanation for the move. "Is this action part of a broader campaign against conservative material and voices on Amazon's platforms?" they asked.



 

 

Responding to the senators on Thursday, Amazon said: "As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable... That said, we reserve the right not to sell certain content. All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer, as do we. As to your specific question about 'When Harry Became Sally,' we have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness." The senators in their letter had also asked Bezos whether Amazon had changed its content guidelines since 2018 and the company clarified that it had. It added that the book's distributor had been notified in advance about removing the publication from Amazon "for violating our content guidelines."



 

 

As for the senators' concern about whether the move was "part of a broader campaign against conservative material and voices on Amazon's platforms," the retail giant said: "No. We offer customers across the political spectrum a wide variety of content that includes disparate opinions." Seeing as how Amazon is the country's dominant book retailer — reportedly accounting for 53% of all books sold in the U.S. and 80% of all ebooks — removing a title from its platform will undoubtedly have a significant impact on its performance. Anderson and Encounter Books criticized the decision in a joint statement Friday, saying that "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," they added. "'When Harry Became Sally' is an important contribution, praised by medical experts, to that conversation. No good comes from shutting down a debate about important matters on which reasonable people of goodwill disagree. Amazon is using its massive power to distort the marketplace of ideas and is deceiving its own customers in the process." On the other hand, the LGBTQ+ organization GLAAD praised Amazon's decision to remove the anti-trans book.



 

 

"There's an antiquated and shameful history of equating LGBTQ identity to mental illness, and Amazon's decision to stop selling books that falsely equate the two is a positive step in ending the misinformation campaign against LGBTQ people, especially trans youth, meant only to cause harm," a spokesperson said in a statement. "This book is dangerous and harmful to trans kids, and those who are looking for information about trans identity should not look to resources written by someone who has made their livelihood by publishing screeds against the trans community."

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