Amazon informed senators on Thursday that it instituted a new policy banning books that treat gender dysphoria as a mental illness from its platform.
The e-commerce giant explained its policy, which had previously not been public, in response to a request for clarification from senators concerned about the banning of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan T. Anderson. Amazon pulled the book from its shelves on February 21.
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“We have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness,” said Amazon. Author Ryan T. Anderson pushed back on Twitter, saying the ban is based on misinterpretations of his book.
First reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday, the news comes as further confirmation of the ideological guidelines Amazon uses to determine which books it will allow. Amazon is the largest bookseller in the country, with over half of all book sales coming from the platform.
Republican senators Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mike Braun (Ind.), and Josh Hawley (Mo.) asked Amazon to clarify why the book had been removed from the platform and whether the ban marked the beginning of a new approach from the tech giant.
In its response, Amazon seemed to confirm that only the distributer had been informed of the ban, not the publisher or author: “Amazon notified the distributor via email of the removal of the book for violating our content guidelines on the day the book was removed from sale.” Anderson and his publisher Encounter Books both said they found out about the ban when they were contacted by prospective buyers who could not find the book on the platform.
Amazon avoided responding to requests from the senators for documentation of the change in policy and whether publishers and sellers were notified of the change.
Amazon’s refusal to answer certain questions may cause further political trouble for the company. In an op-ed Friday, Rubio announced his support for striking Amazon workers in Alabama, citing Amazon’s new books policy. In February, Lee stated his willingness to work with Democratic senators to rein in big tech companies that are creating “a corporatist nightmare of censorship and hypocrisy.”
The American Psychiatric Association referred to gender dysphoria as a disorder in its influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 2012, when it changed its description to “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.” Gender dysphoria is still considered a disorder in cases in which the individual experiences “significant distress or impairment in major areas of life.”
“Everyone agrees that gender dysphoria is a serious condition that causes great suffering,” said Anderson and Encounter Books on Thursday. “There is a debate, however, which Amazon is seeking to shut down, about how best to treat patients who experience gender dysphoria.”
Santi Ruiz is a staff reporter covering science and tech policy. He graduated from the University of Chicago, where he studied political science. His Twitter handle is @rSanti97 and his email is [email protected]
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