For three years, Amazon sold Ryan Anderson’s book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.” Then, last February, the book disappeared from Amazon’s virtual shelves.
Anderson—president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative research institute—first learned his book was being censored when he received a message from someone who wanted to buy the book, but could not find it on Amazon.
“So, I pull up my Amazon app, and the hardback is gone, the paperback editions gone, the Kindles gone, the audiobooks gone, even the used copies,” Ryan told The Daily Signal.
The author contacted his book agent and then the publisher. No one knew why Amazon had suddenly stopped selling “When Harry Became Sally.”
Upon contacting Amazon, a representative of the online giant informed Anderson it had removed his book because it violated its content policy.
Anderson, and many of the readers and political leaders who benefited from his extensive research on the transgender issue, were puzzled by Amazon’s vague rationale for censoring the book.
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Braun of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, and Josh Hawley of Missouri sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last Feb. 24, asking a series of questions about why Amazon removed the book.
Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, responded to the senators in a letter on March 11, writing: “We have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”
But “the book doesn’t do that,” Anderson explained.
“When Harry Became Sally” details the topic of “gender dysphoria, though it doesn’t discuss it in the context of a mental illness,” Anderson said, adding that he avoided using such language because it’s “stigmatizing.”
“It belittles people. It marginalizes people,” he explained.
Anderson first decided to write a book about gender dysphoria and the “transgender moment” when he began hearing the stories of those who had transitioned and then detranitioned. One of those accounts Anderson first heard was that of Walt Heyer.
Heyer spent eight years living as a woman before he detransitioned more than 30 years ago. Heyer, now 81, has dedicated the past several decades of his life to helping others struggling with gender dysphoria. After Anderson heard Heyer’s testimony, he began reading and watching videos of others who struggled with gender dysphoria.
The “stories were just utterly heartbreaking,” Anderson said.
Anderson, who was working as a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation at the time, began the process of writing what would ultimately become “When Harry Became Sally.” (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“I ended up reading thousands of pages about the biology, the science, the medicine, the psychology, the psychiatry, the philosophy, the law. I was, like, each one of those issues can become a chapter of the book,” he said.
The book was published in February 2018 and was available for purchase on Amazon and elsewhere.
Anderson describes gender dysphoria as “deep discomfort that someone would feel as a result of a biological sex that doesn’t line up with their gender identity.”
He is quick to add that gender dysphoria is a real problem and a very difficult one that requires a sincere and authentic response:
You wouldn’t want to be experiencing gender dysphoria, but if you were experiencing it, you would want someone to be giving you authentic, compassionate guidance. And compassion detached from truth isn’t authentic, right? It’s a phony form of compassion, where you just say what people want to hear.
Readers can still purchase “When Harry Became Sally” at Barnes and Noble and elsewhere, but Amazon still refuses to sell the book.
Amazon controls 72% of sales of new books for adults online, according to The Wall Street Journal. CNBC estimates that Amazon is now valued at about $1.65 trillion.
By refusing to sell the book, Anderson says, Amazon is “harming people with gender dysphoria who aren’t getting some of the knowledge that they need.”
The online giant’s continued censorship of “When Harry Became Sally” is also “insulting to the intellects of people on the left,” Anderson said, because the implication is that Amazon has to “protect you from dangerous ideas [because] you are so fragile that if we sold Ryan Anderson’s book, what? He might persuade you?”
An Amazon spokesperson responded to The Daily Signal’s request for comment, writing:
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 as described in our content guidelines for books, which you can find here.
All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer, and we do not take selection decisions lightly.
Anderson thinks that Amazon’s actions relieve a fear on the far left that they “might lose on the transgender issue,” and that they “might not be on the ‘right side of history,’ that we might have truth in our side.”
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