Paul Tuns

A few weeks ago, Amazon abruptly stopped selling When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan T. Anderson and refused to provide a reason why, although few doubted that it was because it questioned the transgender ideology. That suspicion has been proven correct. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Amazon. AMZN -1.40% com Inc. said it recently removed a three-year-old book about transgender issues from its platforms because it decided not to sell books that frame transgender and other sexual identities as mental illnesses.

The company explained its decision in a letter Thursday to Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana and Josh Hawley of Missouri, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The senators had written last month to Chief Executive Jeff Bezos requesting an explanation of why “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” was no longer available on Amazon nor on its Kindle and Audible platforms.

“As to your specific question about When Harry Became Sally, we have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness,” Amazon said in the letter, which was signed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, referring to sexual identities that include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, among others.

Ed Whelan notes that the online bookseller carried When Harry Became Sally for three years but in the month that the Equality Act, which would enshrine transgender rights, picks up steam in Congress, Amazon drops it. I’m not sure if the suggestion is that it would run afoul the law or that Amazon is taking sides in the culture war and doesn’t want a serious book-length treatment of the issues around gender dysphoria informing the public about one side of the debate. Either way, it’s a problem. Our 2018 review by Janice Glover is titled “New book challenges transgender ideology.” Amazon seems to be saying we can’t have that: the trans ideology is beyond question.

As much as advocates on the other side want to pretend the debate over transgender causes and transitioning are over, it is still very much a public policy question with the Biden administration pushing trans rights through the departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Justice.  (We will resist the urge to remind people that at one time there was a scientific consensus around eugenics.) Amazon clearly believes that there should not be a debate about these issues, or even an exchange of ideas about them.

It will do no good to point out that Ryan Anderson has explained before that the book does not claim gender confusion is a mental illness. It does not matter that Amazon has stopped selling When Harry Became Sally — and presumably other books that do not toe the line on transgender issues — but has not ceased selling Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. It is irrelevant to argue that Amazon is private company can choose which books to sell or not sell. A giant platform responsible for more than half the book market in America has de-platformed an important and informative book about a current public policy debate. And it won’t stop with Ryan Anderson. Censorship goes beyond the state dictating what can and cannot be said — or thought.

This is not about hate. This is not about science. This is about dissent from the culturally dominant ideology. As Anderson explained recently in First Things:

The people who did read the book discovered that it is an accurate and accessible presentation of the scientific, medical, philosophical, and legal debates surrounding the trans phenomenon. Yes, it advances an argument against transgender ideology from a viewpoint. But it doesn’t get any facts wrong, and it doesn’t engage in heated rhetoric.

Moreover, it was praised by experts: the former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, a longtime psychology professor at NYU, a professor of medical ethics at Columbia Medical School, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Utah, a distinguished professor at Harvard Law School, an eminent legal philosopher at Oxford, and a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton.

But for a heretic-hunting Left, none of that matters. It’s not about how you say it, or how rigorously you argue it, or how charitably you present it. It’s about whether you affirm or dissent from the new orthodoxy of gender ideology.

Anderson quite rightly says:

No good comes from shutting down a debate about important matters on which reasonable people of good will disagree. Amazon is using its massive power to distort the marketplace of ideas and is deceiving its own customers in the process.

Encounter, the publisher of When Harry Became Sally, said:

If Amazon, which controls most of the book sales in America, has decided to delist a book with which some of its functionaries disagree, that is an unconscionable assault on free speech. It will have a chilling effect on the publishing industry and the free circulation of ideas. It must not be left to stand unchallenged.

Fortunately, you can still purchase the book through its publisher, Encounter.