Last month, Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, couldn’t find one of his books on Amazon. The online retail giant had pulled When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement, a book that Anderson and others call a thoughtful discussion of problems with the transgender movement.
Many wondered why Amazon pulled this book, which was published in 2018. Anderson and his publisher reached out to Amazon for answers, and the organization finally responded (PDF) after three Republican Senators — Marco Rubio, Mike Lee of Utah, and Mike Braun — wrote to the leadership.
“As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable,” Amazon Vice President for Public Policy Brian Huseman wrote. “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.”
Sounds reasonable so far. But there’s always a “but.”
“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.”
Private companies do have a right not to sell certain content, but is the policy applied in a fair way? Amazon contended that it chooses not to sell books “that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”
Anderson said his book doesn’t say that LGBTQ+ identity is a mental illness. In fact, when he used the term “mental illness” twice in his book, he was quoting a man pretending to be a woman. Anderson said his book discusses the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of gender dysphoria, and Amazon still sells that book.
“The timing of Amazon’s move is highly suspicious, coming the weekend before Congress voted on a radical transgender bill—the so-called “Equality Act”—of which I am one of the most outspoken critics,” Anderson told The Daily Signal. “It seems that Amazon is using its massive power to distort the marketplace of ideas and is deceiving its own customers.”