LGBTQ Groups and Amazon Employees Call for ‘Anti-Trans’ Book’s Removal

Halifax Pride is cutting ties with the city’s library system over the book ‘Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters', which Amazon employees had called to be dropped by the retail giant.
June 3, 2021, 2:00pm
​Halifax Pride is calling for the city's library system to remove a book it calls "anti-trans."
Halifax Pride is calling for the city's library system to remove a book it calls "anti-trans." Photo by Chris Stoodley

A Canadian LGBTQ group and its supporters are boycotting Halifax, Nova Scotia’s library system for carrying a book they call “anti-trans,” not long after Amazon workers complained about the same book.

Last month, a petition was launched calling on Halifax’s library system to pull Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters from library shelves. 

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Mila McKay, who identifies as transgender and non-binary, started the petition, saying the issue is one of safety for trans youth.

“When it comes to the library, they don’t have an obligation and they don’t have the space to house every book in the world,” McKay said. “They especially don’t have the obligation to house a book that contains debunked science and very politically charged hateful content.”

According to the book’s own description, the author, Los Angeles journalist Abigail Shrier, looks at how some young girls come out as transgender for a boost in “social status” but end up regretting their transition and their changed bodies.

The petition claims the book quotes academics who push an agenda disguised as a scholarly study and never actually speak to the children experiencing gender dysphoria.

McKay said the book has a “very anti-trans narrative,” which justifies a form of conversion therapy and acts as a “manual on child abuse.”

Halifax Public Libraries released a statement last Thursday refusing to “censor the book,” saying it would keep it in circulation. “Free access to information and ideas is a democratic right of every citizen,” the statement said. It also said the library is committed to supporting the trans and broader LGBTQ community.

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The next day, Halifax Pride—which organizes the city’s annual Pride festival—released a statement that said it would no longer book library spaces until the libraries conducted an internal review, policy change, and training. Pride Toronto tweeted on Sunday expressing solidarity with the Halifax organization and the trans community. At least one writer, award-winning YA novelist Tom Ryan, said he’d also cancel his upcoming library-sponsored presentation out of concern for LGBTQ teens.

The book has sparked controversy in other North American communities.

In March, Elm Klemic—an Ottawa parent of four children including one who’s gender non-conforming—sent a letter to the Canadian capital’s public library asking it to remove Irreversible Damage from its shelves.

Ottawa Public Library also refused to remove the book. It said the library has something that will offend everyone and it would need a legal reason to pull the book from its shelves.

In April, dozens of Amazon employees backed an internal complaint about Irreversible Damage. According to the Seattle Times, the complaint argued the book violates the online retailer’s policy against selling books “that frame LGBTQ identity as a mental illness.”

But on April 23, Amazon’s director of book content risk and quality announced on an internal message board that the company would continue selling the book. 

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However, the company did suspend an advertising campaign from the book’s publisher, Regnery Publishing, in June 2020 when the book was released.

Regnery Publishing is a politically conservative book publisher based in Washington, D.C. Its president and publisher Thomas Spence said he wouldn’t knowingly publish a book with lies.

“It’s obviously censorship by any definition that I’m acquainted with,” he said in an interview. “And I suppose some censorship is justified. If somebody were publishing dangerous medical misinformation, then I would have no objection to libraries avoiding such a book.”

McKay said they don’t believe removing a book from a library is censorship—especially with today’s online accessibility.

They said many people on social media have argued that removing the book from public libraries is equivalent to the book burnings in Germany during the Second World War, but it’s nothing like that.

Instead, McKay’s trying to prevent a public library from loaning the book to people who don’t have time to research and only take the book’s claims at face value.

“What I really want parents to think about is going to a professional,” McKay said. “Because Abigail isn’t a professional; her book isn’t based on a professional’s analysis of this information that she’s cherry-picked. Go to a doctor.”

Follow Chris Stoodley on Twitter.