The American Booksellers Association has apologised for an “inexcusable” error that saw an extreme anti-trans book mailed to 750 stores on International Non-Binary People’s Day.
The national organisation came under fire after it sent members a copy of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, a controversial title written by the anti-trans journalist Abigail Shrier, who helped proliferate the debunked concept of “rapid onset gender dysphoria”.
The book describes trans identity as “a peer contagion among teen girls,” perpetuating the idea that being transgender is inherently harmful to youth and something to be “cured”.
“A generation of girls is at risk,” the description reads. “Abigail Shrier’s essential book will help you understand what the trans craze is and how you can inoculate your child against it – or how to retrieve her from this dangerous path.”
Amazon previously acknowledged the book’s “offensive content” when it suspended a paid-for advertising campaign last year (though it continues to sell the title; Target also pulled the book from shelves in February.
Despite this, the ABA sent the book to 750 independent bookstores as part of its monthly “white box” mailing, which includes a range of promotional and marketing materials and recommended titles that “publishers wish for booksellers to read and consider stocking”.
At Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstores, trans bookseller Casey Morrissey was the first person in the store to open the box.
“I’m seething,” they tweeted on Wednesday (14 July). “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?
“It isn’t even a new title, so it really caught me in the gut. Do better.”
@ABAbook 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? It isn’t even a new title, so it really caught me in the gut. Do better. pic.twitter.com/VYb1ZKrv9A
— Casey (@CaseyBookEater) July 14, 2021
Apparently they justified it because the paperback just came out. pic.twitter.com/mAMUotCr40
— Casey (@CaseyBookEater) July 14, 2021
Other booksellers echoed their shock. “I need the ABA to explain how this happened, with an outline of how they will rectify this and avoid promoting transphobic hate speech in the future,” tweeted one, tagging the organisation.
“I am one of many trans booksellers at my bookstore, and I plan on writing a letter with our union asking for accountability.”
The Harvard Book Store also chimed in, tweeting: “As longtime ABA members with beloved staff across the gender spectrum, we’re extremely disappointed and angered to see the ABA promoting dangerous, widely discredited anti-trans propaganda, and we’re calling for accountability.”
Anti-trans mailing was a ‘serious, violent incident,’ ABA admits
Within hours, the American Booksellers Association had issued a grovelling apology.
“An anti-trans book was included in our July mailing to members,” they admitted in a statement. “This is a serious, violent incident that goes against ABA’s ends policies, values, and everything we believe and support. It is inexcusable.”
“Apologies are not enough,” they continued. “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.”
According to Publisher’s Weekly, Regnery, the publisher of Irreversible Damage, offered the free copies to booksellers to promote the book’s forthcoming paperback release.
Regnery is said to be “blindsided” by the ABA’s statement.
President and publisher Thomas Spence said: “The only explanation I can think of for the ABA’s statement that credits them with a rational (though dishonourable) motive is that they’re trying to drum up publicity for their annual Banned Books Week promotion, coming in September (this year’s slogan: ‘Censorship Divides Us’).”