Amazon.com Is Homophobic, and the Media Don’t Notice

I know it’s Sunday, but you would have thought that this would be getting more attention:

The number one word being used over and over on Twitter at this moment is “AmazonFail.”

Why?

Apparently, users are angry about a perceived anti-gay policy that removes lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender books from appearing in sales rankings.

Author Mark Probst writes on his blog that two days ago, “mysteriously, the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay romance books: ‘Transgressions’ by Erastes and ‘False Colors’ by Alex Beecroft. Everybody was perplexed. Was it a glitch of some sort? The very next day HUNDREDS of gay and lesbian books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including my book ‘The Filly.'”

That’s right: this story broke on private blogs and on Twitter. Twitter. Seriously. The only mainstream media outlet that I have seen to cover this story so far is the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, quoted above. Yes, that Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the one that had to stop publishing in print because it’s in dire financial straits.

Amazon now considers “adult”: Brokeback Mountain; The Well of Loneliness; Foucault’s History of Sexuality; books by EM Forster, Edmund White, Quentin Crisp, and the entire catalogue of de Sade; biographies of gay icons like Oscar Wilde and Harvey Milk; and a number of books about coming out and young-adult sex education and things like that. It does not consider “adult”: Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch, and Playboy: the Complete Centerfolds, among other things. See a pattern?

Apparently The Well of Loneliness, which is like the most monotonously chaste book about a lesbian relationship that I’ve ever read, is more obscene than Naked Lunch, which includes the famously and disturbingly graphic depiction of autoerotic asphyxiation in the vignette entitled “AJ’s Annual Party.” I totally thought we as a culture were over this, generally speaking. I thought the era of obscene publications ended with the “Howl” trial, with the founding of Grove Press. Apparently not.

My one-track mind where sexuality issues are concerned notwithstanding, I’m pretty sure this is a big issue. Amazon is a major commercial entity and certainly a powerful force in the life of any college student in the habit of purchasing school books. If it considers Heather Has Two Mommies risqué, what hope have we for, say, conservative policy-makers in Washington?

There’s a petition in protest of the new Amazon policy that I highly recommend you sign. I know that until Amazon changes this policy, and re-establishes LGBT literature in the sales rankings, I’ll be buying my books elsewhere.

UPDATE: Amazon says it was a software glitch. To quote Sara Eileen: “That’s a weird-ass glitch, Amazon.”

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