Amazon workers have quit in recent weeks in protest of the company’s decision to continue selling a book that they claim portrays transgender youth as mentally ill.
The resignations came after a complaint submitted to the company’s internal message board in April garnered the sympathy of over 467 Amazon corporate workers.
The business employs approximately 1.3 million employees globally as of last year and is the second-largest employer in the United States.
The employees’ complaint refers to a March decision that Amazon shared with Republican senators, claiming that it had decided not to continue selling books that portray LGBTQ+ people as individuals with a mental disorder.
The employee-led petition requests the removal of Abigail Shrier’s book “Irreversible Damage.”
In the book, Shrier investigates what she refers to as a trans craze of young girls identifying as transgender.
The book is now the top, second, and third best-seller, in hardback, softcover, and Kindle versions in Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Demographic Studies category.
While Shrier denies that her book portrays LGBTQ identities as a form of mental illness, Amazon employees highlighted a passage in which Shrier says that many of the adolescent girls identifying as transgender seemed to be caught in a craze’, also mentioning that the cultural condition spreads like a virus.
In other texts from the book, Shrier defines the word craze as a crowd mental illness.
Selene Xenia, a software engineer who identifies as trans and has worked at Amazon for seven years, claimed she quit in June after discovering the business would continue to sell the book.
She was pleased with Amazon’s decision to discontinue selling another book, “When Harry Became Sally,” since it framed transgender identity as a kind of mental illness.
However, she believes Amazon’s recent decision to continue selling “Irreversible Damage” went too far.
Xenia said that the book actually has craze in the title and views transgender identity to be a mental disorder in many ways.
Xeni said she thought Amazon’s statement that it would keep selling one book but not another identical one to be very hypocritical.
She also mentioned that it seems like Amazon had to delete that other book for public relations reasons, rather than because they felt ethically obliged to.
Shrier, the L.A. based author, said in a statement that this “problem” will not go away just because some unhappy Amazon workers wish it would.
Shrier says her work goes out of its way to respect the experiences of transgender people, never disparages them, and never suggests that trans orientation is a mental illness.
Shrier spoke before Congress this year in opposition to the passing of the Equality Act, which would give LGBTQ individuals nondiscrimination federal civil rights protections in areas such as employment, housing, credit, and education.
The measure was approved by the House in February and now awaits a vote in the Senate.
In response to reports that some Amazon workers were opposed to the book’s availability, Shrier stated on Twitter that anyone who believes her book perpetuates a narrative of transgender identity as an illness hasn’t read it.
According to Cecelia Fan, an Amazon spokesperson, the business is committed to giving access to different views.
Fan said that as a bookstore, they think that giving access to a diverse range of views is one of the most essential things they do; even if those viewpoints vary from their own or Amazon’s stated positions.
Amazon banned the sale of a self-published e-book last year that argued the coronavirus’s dangers were exaggerated but changed its decision when Elon Musk tweeted that the company’s action was crazy.
According to Morgan Weiland, an affiliate scholar at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society whose work focuses on technology policy and constitutional law, Amazon is one of the world’s largest online booksellers, and decisions it makes about what to sell and not sell on its marketplace can have serious consequences for the distribution of a book.
Reports stated that after Amazon employees filed the complaint on the company’s internal system, Amazon’s director of book content risk and policy wrote on an internal message board that leadership had met with an LGBTQ+ employee resource group and examined the book.
Amazon executives determined that the book did not violate the company’s policy prohibiting the sale of books that portray LGBTQ+ identities as mental illnesses.
Weiland said that if Amazon wants to be content-neutral, they should be clear on that. If they’re going to have policies, they should stick to them. They are doomed to fail if they do not consistently implement their rules, she mentioned.
Multiple workers expressed concerns that the book is labeled as a bestseller and appears as the first result when looking for books on transgender subjects on Amazon.
One employee said that because of Amazon’s success and size, consumers will come to them seeking education regarding their transgender children.
The employee also said they have a duty to ensure that they do not exploit their dominant market position to exacerbate the damage caused by the book.
Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs at PEN America, an organization that fights to protect authors’ free speech, said in a statement that although workers are allowed to disagree with a book’s content or dispute a company’s policy, selling a book does not imply supporting it.
Books like Shrier’s, according to health care experts who specialize in helping transgender and gender nonconforming children, are worrisome because they may be viewed as general resources by parents.
Different experts from Los Angeles say that their concern is that people will get this type of book for guidance on these issues rather than looking for professionals who have all observed for some years that gender-affirming care for youth is completely necessary and that there is a scientific basis for providing such care, which in some cases is lifesaving for young people.
After receiving criticism from activists, Target chose to remove the book from its shelves last year.
However, the book was restored the following day when opponents argued that its removal violated Shrier’s free speech rights. Shrier said in an online interview in March that Target had discontinued sales of the book.