by Spencer Soper and Ella Cerrone | Bloomberg
A group of Amazon employees plan to demonstrate at Seattle’s Pride Parade on Sunday to protest the online retailer’s sale of books they believe are anti-transgender — a campaign aimed at that to be an inclusive employer. Threatens to damage the company’s image.
In recent months, several hundred employees have been pushing the e-commerce giant to ban books like Irreparable Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. They say such titles dehumanize trans people and dismiss their identities as mental disorders, contrary to the advice of almost every major medical group. Employees say the books may confuse at-risk teens and their parents, who are turning to Amazon for information.
“It’s very disturbing to see books that don’t show that trans people should move into the LGBT book division,” said Lena Jodoin, who made the move two years ago and quit her job as an engineer at Amazon last month in protest. “It just hurts on a personal level.”
The internal backlash began a year ago via employee chat rooms and then spread publicly in March, when more than 400 workers signed a petition urging management to stop selling certain books and set up a panel to determine whether titles violate Amazon’s policies against hate. Speech. Activism intensified earlier this month when about 30 activists from a group called No Hate attended a “die-in” at Amazon during a Pride ceremony at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.
According to a member of the group, more than 600 employees have signed the petition so far and around 20 employees have left the company as a result of the title sale. Many other transgender workers also plan to quit after completing gender-affirming treatment, a complex and personal process that can take years and can be hampered by job and insurance changes, which have left names for fear of retaliation. Please do not print.
The planned demonstration during the Seattle Pride Parade, which is expected to draw more than 500,000 viewers, will be no hate on Amazon’s most visible protest ever. Three months ago, Seattle Pride organizers removed Amazon as a corporate sponsor, citing support from lawmakers and organizations that support anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Amazon spokeswoman Maggie Sivan said in an emailed statement, “We respect that many people care deeply about this topic and we are committed to providing an inclusive work environment for all of our 1.6 million employees.” Huh. “As a company, we firmly believe in diversity, equity and inclusion. As a bookseller, we have chosen to present a very broad approach, including books that contradict our company’s stated position. We believe it’s possible to do both – bring a broader perspective to our bookstore and stand behind our values as a company. When reviewing a book against our content guidelines, we recommend that we consider specific content and invest significant time and resources to ensure our guidelines are implemented as consistently as possible.”
Deciding which items to ban is a constant challenge for Amazon, which typically refuses products unless its reputation is threatened by public pressure. In 2015, the company pulled Confederate flag merchandise from its web store, but only after Walmart and eBay banned it for the first time. Amazon is often asked to sell Nazi memorabilia and other merchandise like Christmas decorations to celebrate Auschwitz, the Nazis’ infamous death camp. More than half of the goods sold on Amazon come from independent retailers who post their wares on the site through online portals, making it difficult to monitor the massive online marketplace.
For example, last year Amazon stopped selling the book When Harry Became Sally because it dismissed transgender people as people with mental disorders. But a Bloomberg reporter covering this story found the book in a web store this week. It was removed after the reporter asked Amazon about it.
Staff are struggling to understand why Amazon banned this book, but other titles with similar themes continue. He suspects a response from Republican lawmakers put the company on hold. Florida Senator Marco Rubio accused Amazon of censorship after it stopped selling When Harry Became Sally.
Employee activists are particularly concerned about “irreparable damage” that appears at the top of search results when an Amazon shopper types in “transgender.” Written by Abigail Schreier, the 2020 book uses anecdotal evidence to suggest that teens identifying as trans are a passing “trend” that can be traced to mental health issues. It has a 4.7-star rating and over 6,000 Amazon reviews.
Shrier and Reganery Publishing did not respond to requests for comment. On its website, the publisher stated, “Abigail Schreier’s important book will help you understand what trans fashion is and how to vaccinate your child against it – or how to recover them from this dangerous path.”
Another target is Johnny the Walrus, a children’s book by conservative commentator Matt Walsh about a boy who thinks he is a sea mammal. The boy’s mother, under pressure from the “internet people”, feeds him insects and takes him with a saw to a doctor, who suggests turning his arms and legs into wings.
A spokesman for Daily Wire-owned DW Books, the title’s publisher, praised Amazon for “denying the demands of its waking employees,” adding that “with only about 100,000 copies sold on Amazon, it’s clear there’s a huge one out there Request for Johnny D. Walrus “from Amazon customers, and we are thrilled with the book’s overwhelming success.”
Some Amazon employees are frustrated that their employer is willing to take a stand on some issues — like supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or exonerating Ukrainians from Russian aggression — but ban all of those books. Not ready for what they consider anti-transgender.
LGBTQ media watchdog group GLAAD says the company has failed to fulfill a promise it made last year not to sell books that falsely portray LGBTQ people as mentally ill. A spokesman for the advocacy group said: “Amazon must deliver on this promise, follow its own content policies that prohibit hate speech, and stop misrepresenting these titles: Harmful LGBTQ Wrong Information and Public”.
Jodoin, who learned she was transgender at the age of 18, is particularly concerned that parents who read books like Irreparable Damage could deny their children’s transgender identity, with potentially disastrous consequences. According to a survey of LGBTQ youth conducted by mental health advocacy group The Trevor Project, transgender and non-binary teens were more likely to consider or attempt suicide than their cisgender peers in the past year. Respondents who were threatened or exposed to harmful and stigmatizing practices known as conversion therapy were more likely to report suicidal thoughts than those who did not. At least 20 states have banned the use of conversion therapy in children.
“It’s especially dangerous when it’s a market as big as Amazon,” Jodoin said. “If we present ourselves as the largest bookseller in the world, that comes with a lot of responsibility.”
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