Dueling petitions about banning “Irreversible Damage” by Abigail Shrier

November 19, 2020 • 9:15 am

As you may remember, Abigail Shrier’s new book, Irreversible Damage, about the dangers of uncritical support for young girls who want to transition to boys, has met with a lot of criticism as “transphobic”. For a while its sale was banned at Target stores (it’s now reinstated.)  Nevertheless, there’s a change.org petition afoot to ban the book everywhere. Click on the screenshot to read it:

An excerpt:

Shrier makes a number of egregious leaps of logic in order to invalidate transgender boys to suit her conservative values. A frequent false-association she creates is in regards to the attempted suicide rate of trans people coinciding with regretting transitioning or even expressing the urge to detransition. She blatantly ignores the fact these statistics much more coincide with transgender individuals feeling ostracized and attacked in a modern society that insists something is wrong with them.

. . . I am calling for the book’s immediate removal from everywhere it is sold. The blatant misinformation and hate speech that endangers the lives of thousands of growing transgender boys. The removal of the text will protect those men from abusive parents who may use the text to justify emotional abuse.

The main point of contention here is that the petitioner says that the suicide of transgender males is not connected with the urge to de-transition, or with regrets, but is due to their ostracism by society. One could argue that the regret/de-transitioning claim is not Shrier’s main point: that she’s dealing with those who have gender dysphoria, not necessarily those who have already transitioned (I don’t know as I haven’t yet received the book.) Also, gender dysphoria could be a symptom or part of a complex of other mental problems, like a general failure to fit into society, and suicide could result from that—not from either regret or ostracism.

At any rate, you can’t ban a book from “everywhere it is sold” because you take issue with one of the book’s contentions. Nevertheless, 1760 people have signed the petition out of a goal of 2500.  In my years of writing on this site, I don’t remember seeing a request for a book to be banned from “everywhere it is sold,” though there are plenty of instances of books being banned from schools or school districts. This is an attempt to erase the book completely.

In a dueling petition, also at change.org,  there’s a call to not ban the book, which I’ve signed. Reassuringly, it’s gathered more signatures: 4340 out of a goal of 5000. I have signed it, because though I haven’t yet read the book, I’m opposed to any banning of books. Click on the screenshot if you want to read the petition and/or sign it.

An excerpt:

I am calling for you to refuse to give in to pressure from ill-informed random people on the internet to remove the book from your listings when the best they can do to bolster their cause is attempt to tie Shrier and her book to the harassment and abuse of transgender people and to their emotional issues, when it is unlikely that anyone who carries out such abuses has even heard of the book. Vanillian has not provided any proof of the alleged misinformation or hate speech and no amount of signatures on a petition based on lies and appeals to emotion is going to change that.

Please don’t pay attention to people who use emotionally manipulative language and horrible scenarios to try to stop people from learning about the harm being done in the name of a worthy cause. Don’t ban books, discuss them. And don’t give in to pressure from astroturfed mobs. Abigail Shrier’s book deserves scrutiny, not a blanket ban in case some people get upset. If you give in to this, sooner or later every book will have to be banned.

Although the counter-petition doesn’t answer the claim that the suicide of transgender males has nothing to do with the urge to reverse course and destransition, the way to resolve these conflicting claims is not to ban the other side, but read both sides of the argument, look at the data (if they exist), and judge for yourself.  It’s an unfortunate characteristic of woke activists, many of whom uncritically valorize the urge to change gender, even in children, that they demonize the other side as “transphobes” rather than dealing with their arguments. And the only way to judge arguments is to hear both sides and look at the evidence.

Shrier’s book is likely seen as “hate speech” by many, since it’s viewed, erroneously, as “transphobic” (Shrier is not at all opposed to transsexual changes in older people.) And this is one of the reasons why we must fight against the possible resurgence of “hate speech” laws should they be suggested during a Biden presidency or crop up in universities.

In the meantime, all the kerfuffle about Shrier’s book (click on screenshot for Amazon link) has created a Streisand effect, propelling it to #45 among all among books, with an expected bimodality of ratings but an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Amazon is surely not going to ban it, so the opponents of the book have simply increased its sales.

The book-banning petition will have no effect (has a change.org petition ever accomplished anything?), save help sell more books. But it is a sign of the Zeitgeist that so many Americans favor this kind of censorship.

 

37 thoughts on “Dueling petitions about banning “Irreversible Damage” by Abigail Shrier

  1. I signed the “no ban” petition without need of reading the book on the straightforward basis that NO book — however repugnant or meretricious its content — should ever be banned. Full stop.

  2. Signed for “no ban.”

    Whether her argument is right or not, it seems well within the realm of hypotheses the community and doctors should consider.

  3. I think what’s unusual about the current calls to ban books is that they are now coming regularly from the Left, which for so long championed free-speech in defense of their own ideas. Having now captured the schools, the press, and the new media, equality of speech is no longer a concern to many. These are unprincipled power grabs in the guise of humanity.

  4. Petitioner: “We should ban Shrier’s entire book because one of her claims is disputed.”

    Rational Person: “On that logic we should ban Petitioner’s petition because it rests on the Petitioner’s implicit claim that banning books is a social good, an idea which is disputed.”

    People who rely on free speech to express their censorious ideas are among the more clueless of all public commenters.

    1. “Rational Person: ‘On that logic we should ban Petitioner’s petition because it rests on the Petitioner’s implicit claim that banning books is a social good, an idea which is disputed.'”

      I really like this argument – may I use it? 🙂

  5. Banning books is a feature of authoritarian ideologies, like (Catholic) Christianity, Nazis and Soviets. Sometimes critics wonder why wokeness is seen as an authoritarian orthodoxy, and here is one example.

    The tendency, however, to automatically include, read, platform whoever is opposed by the woke is also no good reaction. Nothing should be banned, but it doesn’t mean that the critics of this book are wrong altogether.

    I haven’t read this book and I’m not interested in it. I see no consensus emerging in this area, and have no interest in making myself an expert to judge competently. I am happy with “I don’t know” and see later how this shakes out.

    1. Exactly. I think the election showed that people were slightly more scared of the authoritarian Trump than the authoritarian woke. Trump lost but the rest of the Republicans did reasonably well.

      I voted for all the sane Republicans on my ballot and third party when there were none.

      1. We can argue what exactly is “sane”, but these people are ostensibly in a conservative party that conserves nothing; are “fiscally conservative” yet always blow the budgets and leave debts; are the “family values” party which includes serial adulterers, divorcees and “family” may include the pool boy. Whatever it is, it’s the party that backed, promoted, and loyally stood by Donald Trump, and, really, that’s not “sane” behaviour.

  6. I’ve got the book on kindle, and looked up “suicide” in the index. Here is the offending passage:

    1) Is the gender dysphoria causing the suicidal ideation? And 2) Do we have any evidence that affirmation ameliorates mental health problems? The answer to both questions, it seems, is no.

    In a recent academic study, Kenneth Zucker found that the mental health outcomes for adolescents with gender dysphoria were very similar to those with the same mental health issues who did not have gender dypshoria. In other words, we have no proof that the gender dysphoria was responsible for the suicidal ideation or tendency to self-harm. It may have been the many other mental health problems that gender dysphoric adolescents so often bear. Still, even if the gender dysphoria were not responsible for the suicidal ideation, it might be worth “affirming” these youths if doing so would cure their depression and lift their suicidal fantasies.
    Unfortunately for proponents of affirmative therapy, there is no evidence that this is the case. There are a few important studies on point, though none is definitive here, since the current craze is so new. One is a long-term study of adult transsexuals (the term in use at the time) showing a rise in suicidality after sex reassignment surgery. 18 Another, more relevant to today’s gender-crazed girls, comes from a leaked 2019 report from the Tavistock and Portman Trust gender clinic in the UK, which showed that rates of self-harm and suicidality did not decrease even after puberty suppression for adolescent natal girls. 19 The report was so damning that a governor of the clinic, Dr. Marcus Evans, resigned.”

    — Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier
    pg 117

    —-
    It’s certainly not the main argument of the book. Most of the other mentions of suicide involve either parents being told that their child will likely kill themselves if they don’t affirm, or more discussion on comorbid or contributing conditions.

  7. I’ve got the book on kindle, and looked up “suicide” in the index. Here is the offending passage:

    1) Is the gender dysphoria causing the suicidal ideation? And 2) Do we have any evidence that affirmation ameliorates mental health problems? The answer to both questions, it seems, is no.

    In a recent academic study, Kenneth Zucker found that the mental health outcomes for adolescents with gender dysphoria were very similar to those with the same mental health issues who did not have gender dypshoria. In other words, we have no proof that the gender dysphoria was responsible for the suicidal ideation or tendency to self-harm. It may have been the many other mental health problems that gender dysphoric adolescents so often bear. Still, even if the gender dysphoria were not responsible for the suicidal ideation, it might be worth “affirming” these youths if doing so would cure their depression and lift their suicidal fantasies.
    Unfortunately for proponents of affirmative therapy, there is no evidence that this is the case. There are a few important studies on point, though none is definitive here, since the current craze is so new. One is a long-term study of adult transsexuals (the term in use at the time) showing a rise in suicidality after sex reassignment surgery. 18 Another, more relevant to today’s gender-crazed girls, comes from a leaked 2019 report from the Tavistock and Portman Trust gender clinic in the UK, which showed that rates of self-harm and suicidality did not decrease even after puberty suppression for adolescent natal girls. 19 The report was so damning that a governor of the clinic, Dr. Marcus Evans, resigned.”

    — Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier
    pg 117

    —-
    It’s certainly not the main argument of the book. Most of the other mentions of suicide involve either parents being told that their child will likely kill themselves if they don’t affirm, or more discussion on comorbid or contributing conditions.

    (2nd attempt, my first didn’t post)

  8. DANGER: conflation of “banning” with “boycotting.”

    Banning and censorship are actions only government can perform. They use force to do it.

    So … what about the marketplace of ideas in a civil society with free speech?

    It is not a violation to urge others to boycott a book. To persuade Target to not sell it. Boycotts, and other similar persuasive tactics to oppose an idea, are not crimes and deserve full protection.

    It is also not a violation for others to chide Target for withdrawing a book from sale.

    The problem with Cancel Culture is the deployment of a term like “banning” as a pinch-hitter for “persuading.” The radical CCer lusts to use force. “Persuasion” is merely a lame starting point for them, so they adopt the trappings of Government crime rectification: threat of force, shout-downs sounding like ‘cease or we will shoot,’ promise of escalation. Their arsenal of emotional attack is ample: intimidation of guilt, accusation of moral atrocity, invocation of group shaming, display of hurt/trauma which engages empathy. Invoking Power deployed by proper authority, [“Open this door, we have a warrant,”] they scream “Shut this door and nail it shut, my feelings got hurt.”

    It would have been one thing for that petition to call for “boycott,” but wrong to call for “banning.” Change.org ought not allow petitions that call for crimes like banning.

    Notice the subtle masking of the distinction in the language of the petition: “I am calling for the book’s immediate removal …”

    Is that a call to ‘ask’ outlets to delist? Or a call to ‘force’ them to do so by legal edict? It is a vile tactic to invoke the Power Penumbra of legal action but retain plausible deniability that you did so… “No, I only meant the stores “should voluntarily” remove it for moral reasons.”

    1. Banning and censorship are actions only government can perform.

      I don’t really agree.

      First, some companies (e.g. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter) are so dominant that if they decide to disallow some content then it is fair to regard that as “censorship”.

      Second, if saying certain things leads to a likelihood of being fired by your employer, or similar harsh sanction, then that amounts to “censorship” by society at large, even if the government plays no role.

      Ever since Mill, “free speech” has been considered to be a wider issue than what the government itself allows, and is about what can be said as part of the normal, mainstream discussion in society.

  9. Seems like the best way to fight this is to do what we can to maximize the Streisand Effect on their book banning efforts. On the other hand, if their main objective is to gain virtue points with their peers, perhaps that won’t work.

    BTW, I still can’t follow these posts like I used to. Stupid WordPress!

  10. I, too, have not even seen the book, but signed the “DO NOT BAN” petition, only to see that they have listed me as a signer of the “BY ALL MEANS BAN” version.

    I don’t know whether this is a scam or some innocent error, but I do see that there is no way to correct it, and it’s tied up with an appeal for (unexplained) money, which naturally makes one suspicious.

    As a further assault upon credibility, one is left hanging at a site that would be better illustrated by a screenshot, if only they were allowed here: a row of 3 circles, headed by “Complete Your Support”, with checkmarks in the first two, and the number 3 in the third, with “Skip for Now” below. This seems to be a dead end, with no way to go forward or back, but by this time: who cares.

    1. Yes, that site gets pretty annoying with its attempts to “upsell” you from just signing a petition to sending them money and spamming your social media with requests for your friends to sign, as well as getting you to sign other petitions… you’re confronted with an endless series of pages making it look like you haven’t fully completed your signature (though I think it was processed on the first page).

      1. Yes, very annoying. Once you’ve signed and the “support this petition” request for cash etc. pops up you can simply delete the tab and your signature will still be added.

      1. Yes, very annoying. Once you’ve signed and the “support this petition” request for cash etc. pops up you can simply delete the tab and your signature will still be added.

      2. D’oh – my earlier post got duplicated here. What I MEANT to add here was that:

        “Osterweil is a dangerous person because her ideas and her book are dangerous, for they provides a rationale for those who would riot, loot, and destroy property. Fortunately, Americans aren’t buying her argument. And I hope they’re not buying her book. There’s no doubt, though, that Osterweil will become a hero to certain people on the Left.”

        is very far from a call for the book in question to be banned.

  11. I signed the “Do not ban” petition—but I can’t find a way to access the list of signatories. Anyone know how to do that?

  12. “I am calling for the book’s immediate removal from everywhere it is sold.” Wow! Here, the “trans” wing of wokeism reveals its open, explicit embrace of fascism. On many fronts, we see the church of the Woke pining for a return to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, established by Holy Mother church in the 1500s. Pope Paul VI formally abolished it in 1966, but here we are again.

  13. I rarely sign petitions, even if I agree with them, but I never sign petitions this poorly written.

    If the “Don’t ban” petition had merely said “Don’t ban this book because free societies don’t ban books,” I may have signed.

  14. The book arrived yesterday and I’m starting it today. I don’t need to read it to know which petition to sign, though. I dislike the banning or burning of books. We know where that road goes.

  15. I signed the NOT petition. If I were a parent, I would want to read everything I could before advising my child about this critical and life-changing decision.

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