Amazon has banned books that frame transgenderism as a mental illness.
The online retailer disclosed the new policy on Thursday after quietly pulling a book on transgenderism by author Ryan Anderson from its site earlier this year. The company explained its decision to ban Anderson’s book in a letter responding to questions from Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.
“As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable,” wrote Brian Huseman, Amazon vice president of public policy, in a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal. “Amazon works hard to ensure customers have a great shopping experience, and access to the widest and most diverse cross-section of written and spoken word in retail today.”
“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,” Huseman continued, referring to Anderson’s book.
Anderson discovered that Amazon had pulled his book from its online store last month. For weeks, Amazon declined to explain to Anderson how his book had violated its policies other than to vaguely reference updated policies against “hate speech.”
Anderson responded to the Amazon letter to the lawmakers over Twitter, accusing the retailer’s executives of mischaracterizing his book and actively siding with one side of a public debate.
“Amazon has finally responded. 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,” Anderson said. He went on to point out that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines gender dysphoria, which per the APA “refers to psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity,” as a mental illness.
“Gender dysphoria is listed in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which Amazon sells. So the real deciding factor seems to be whether you endorse hormones and surgery as the proper treatment or counseling,” he says.
“Amazon appears to have never read my book, but relied on hit pieces. As I pointed out before: ‘Please quote the passage where I ‘call them mentally ill.’ You can’t quote that passage because it doesn’t exist,’ he adds, referencing a piece he wrote in The Daily Signal responding to criticism of his book.
Amazon is the by far the most dominant book retailer in the United States, selling 53% of all physical books sold in the U.S. and 80% of all ebooks. In its response to the Republican senators, Amazon asserted that its change in book policy and tacitly endorsing one side of a public debate did not represent a wider bias or movement against conservative ideas.
“No,” the retailer said in response to the question by GOP lawmakers. “We offer customers across the political spectrum a wide variety of content that includes disparate opinions.”