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American Booksellers Association Apologizes for Sending Repulsive Anti-Trans Garbage To Booksellers

At a protest for transgender rights, a person holds a sign reading "Protect trans kids"

The American Booksellers Association is facing massive criticism over their decision to include a book that frames being transgender as a dangerous mental illness in their July white box (a package of advanced reader copies, galleys, and other materials.) And it was their decision, no matter how much passive voice they put on their subsequent public apology.

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After being called out online over sending booksellers Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (thanks for letting us all know how garbage your book is by putting it right in the title), the ABA offered this statement:

An anti-trans book was included in our July mailing to members. This is a serious, violent incident that goes against ABA’s ends policies, values, and everything we believe and support. It is inexcusable.

We apologize to our trans members and to the trans community for this terrible incident and the pain we caused them. We also apologize to the LGBTQIA+ community at large, and to our bookselling community.

Apologies are not enough. We’ve begun addressing this today and are committed to engaging in the critical dialogue needed to inform concrete steps to address the harm we caused. Those steps will be shared in the next three weeks.

The organization has since made their account private so I can’t say if they have followed up on that statement, which, last I could see, had received a fair amount of criticism based on the extreme passive voice in that first sentence which seems to punt responsibility for the decision out into the ether.

While Shrier isn’t named in the statement, there’s no doubt that hers is the anti-trans book in question. Just hours before the ABA issued their apology, one bookseller (who has also made their account private) tweeted: “I’m seething. I was excited to open our July white box, and then the first book I pulled out is Irreversible Damage. Do you know how that feels, as a trans bookseller and book buyer?” They also noted that because this isn’t even a new title, “it really caught me in the gut.”

The book was included in the ABA’s July box as a promotion for the new paperback edition, which has reignited the same level of controversy that happened around its original hardcover release.

Following the book’s initial release, massive blowback led Target to take it off of shelves, although the store then began selling the book again after only a day. I’ve seen reports that Amazon also banned and then un-banned the book, while other sources say the site merely refused to run ads for it. Either way, it is, appallingly, currently #1 in Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Studies section.

This is despite a pledge from Amazon “not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” Recently, at least two Amazon employees quit over the company’s decision to sell the book. And many more have issued their opposition to the book’s presence on the site.

From TIME:

Hundreds of Amazon employees have in recent months supported an internal complaint against the e-commerce giant’s decision to sell the book—which is currently the #1 bestseller in Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Demographic Studies section—arguing that it frames LGBTQ identity as mental illness. NBC News reported that the issue was first raised in Amazon’s internal ticketing system in April and has since been backed by at least 467 Amazon corporate employees. At least two employees have resigned over the issue, according to NBC.

Shrier’s book is a fearmongering mess of misinformation masquerading as science. The book asserts that children and teens who were assigned female at birth are adopting trans identities despite not actually being trans. Instead, Shrier asserts that they are confused and relies on a long-outdated study of what used to be called “gender identity disorder” (a term she, of course, insists on using) to back up her fallacies.

Shrier based her “research” on the stories of young people who either detransitioned or were otherwise deemed merely confused. However, as an article in Psychology Today notes, Shrier never actually talked to any of these young people. Rather, she only interviewed their parents, all of whom were opposed to their children’s desires to transition.

Given her shoddy journalistic skills, Shrier relies on controversy to sell books. It’s sad to see giants like Target and Amazon cave to right-wing backlash but this is a great reminder to support independent booksellers—the very people who are leading this fight in the first place.

(image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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