Bigots Swarm Twitter as Target Flip-Flops on Transphobic Book

Target is drawing criticism from transphobes after its stores, like this one in Brooklyn, pulled an anti-trans book from its shelves.
Reuters/ Brendan McDermid

A book that peddles false narratives about transgender children was removed from the shelves at Target, but was later restored after the retail giant sparked outrage from transphobes who took out their frustrations on social media.

Abigail Shrier’s book, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” is ranked number one on Amazon under “LGBT Demographic Studies” — and what a “demographic study” it is, if you can call it that.

The book broadly invalidates the lived experience of trans youth and feeds misinformation to the parents of trans children by falsely suggesting that gender dysphoria is a new phenomenon and that youth only come out as trans because it is popular to do so, among plenty of other baseless claims.

After retail giant enrages fringey corners of social media for pulling volume, quickly restores it to its shelves

The book’s wild description warns of “a generation of girls at risk” and purports to “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.”

Shrier’s perspective on trans issues is deeply problematic in more ways than one. Shrier admits in her book that she misgenders transgender youth, saying, “I refer to biologically female teens caught up in this transgender craze as ‘she’ and ‘her’” — a choice by the author that disrespects transgender teens’ gender identity and falsely assumes that all trans boys or non-binary individuals assigned female at birth have the same biological makeup.

On the contrary, many individuals ultimately receive gender-affirming care to align their body’s biology with the gender with which they identify, and a study published last year in the journal Pediatrics found that adolescents who receive access to puberty blockers have lower rates of suicide.

Despite findings like that, the book is riding the wave of a conspiracy-laden Trump era during which transphobia has swept through federal agencies, anti-trans bills have flooded Republican-led statehouses across the nation, and right-wing circles on social media platforms have given life to outright false narratives about the LGBTQ community.

Such narratives have been fueled in large part by TERFs — so-called trans-exclusionary radical feminists who hide their transphobia behind the guise of women’s rights — and free speech advocates who argue that holding bigoted voices accountable amounts to suppression of First Amendment rights, even though that accountability is demanded by the public and the free marketplace, not by any government coercion.

Out lesbian journalist Bari Weiss, whose bitter resignation from the New York Times earlier this year — based on charges the newspaper was in the throes of illiberal orthodoxy that stigmatizes “WrongThink” — drew praise from the likes of Ben Shapiro and Donald Trump, Jr., jumped to Shrier’s defense after Target first removed the book.

“The efforts to smear my friend @AbigailShrier and to disappear her book (hi, @Target) is despicable — and a sign of what’s to come,” Weiss bemoaned on Twitter. “I regret that I didn’t speak up earlier on her behalf, that I also thought to myself: is this the hill I want to die on?”

It is indeed the hill Weiss — and countless others — are dying on. The issue rapidly blew up on social media when an individual whose tweet has since been deleted brought the book to Target’s attention. Target then replied in a tweet, saying, “Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. We have removed this book from our assortment.”

In response to Target’s initial tweet, Shrier wrote, “Target just made my book disappear. Does it bother anyone that Woke activists and spineless corporations now determine what Americans are allowed to read?”

Others also ran to Shrier’s corner, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born former Muslim who founded the AHA Foundation, a non-profit that opposes female genital mutilation, honor killings, and forced marriages. She has a massive Twitter following of more than 400,000 people.

“I’ve read it,” Hirsi Ali wrote on Twitter. “Every grown-up who is in a position of looking after teenage girls (parents, teachers, therapists, religious leaders, coaches, etc.) should read this book.”

Conservative podcast host Allie Beth Stuckey, who boasts more than 340,000 followers, responded to Target by attacking those who denounced the transphobic messages embedded within the book.

“Here, @target cowers to a mob of know-nothing randos in removing @AbigailShrier ‘s well-researched, perfectly reasonable book about the dangers of the transgender movement to teen girls,” Stuckey wrote. “What a joke.”

But shortly before 5 p.m. on November 13, Target suddenly announced a reversal of the decision to pull the book.

“Yesterday, we removed a book from Target.com based on feedback we received,” Target noted. “We want to offer a broad assortment for our guests and are adding this book back to Target.com. We apologize for any confusion.”

While the influence of transphobes on social media is undeniable, others with high visibility managed to push back firmly against the book ahead of Target’s second announcement. Chase Strangio, an out trans attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, described the book as “a dangerous polemic with a goal of making people not trans.”

“I think of all the times and ways I was told my transness wasn’t real and the daily toll that still takes,” Strangio wrote in a tweet. “We have to fight these ideas which are leading to the criminalization of trans life again.”

And in a clear response to Weiss’ tweet, Strangio added, “Also stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100 percent a hill I will die on.”

While there have been cries of censorship, the book’s removal from Target hardly seems to have dampened its reach or circulation, and the attention appears to have even boosted sales.

One tweet, from user Johnathan Perez, drew more than 400 likes after he reminded folks that “Americans are still allowed to read [the book].”

“They just can’t buy it from a vendor that reserves the right to choose its stock,” Perez added. “But thanks for inciting radicalism.”

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