Demonstrators who identified themselves as members of the activist group No Hate at Amazon disrupted a rainbow flag-raising event at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle June 1, according to Business Insider. The company-approved ceremony was meant to officially usher in LGBTQ2S+ Pride Month and was coordinated by Glamazon, Amazon’s official company queer affinity group.
Protestors staged a “die-in”—a form of protest frequently used by queer activists during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic—in order to draw attention to Amazon’s continued sale of transphobic books, two of which the internal organization specifically cited in a petition circulated in March: Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier, and Johnny the Walrus by Matt Walsh.
Demonstrators also used the opportunity to call out the platform’s willingness to “rainbow-wash.” That term refers to its purported strategy of lining the coffers of anti-LGBTQ2S+ authors, organizations and politicians, all while publicly claiming allyship with the community at large.
An Amazon employee involved in the protest told Business Insider that the demonstration was “a risk that a lot of us are willing to take because we can’t continue to work for this company and turn a morally blind eye to its policies,” citing fears that participation could possibly endanger their job security. Last year, Amazon settled a lawsuit with two former employees who said they were fired over speaking out against conditions for warehouse workers and the company’s position on climate change.
A protestor who identified themselves as an organizer for No Hate at Amazon expressed similar sentiments, claiming that Amazon doesn’t appear to enforce its own internal policies on hate speech when it comes to the books sold on its website. “We’ve obviously seen through a number of these books that that’s not the case when it comes to transphobic material,” the organizer told the Washington Post.
In response to a request for comment, an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that the platform selects its stocked titles from “a very broad range of viewpoints, including books that conflict with our company values and corporate positions.”
Unfortunately, the demonstration marks the most recent in a string of incidents surrounding Amazon’s continued platforming of anti-LGBTQ2S+ titles. Seattle’s Pride parade cut Amazon as a sponsor in March, citing their past alleged donations to Washington state lawmakers who pushed for anti-trans legislation as recently as 2021. They also noted that the company is indirectly bankrolling anti-LGBTQ2S+ organizations through its AmazonSmile donation program.
Amazon has long faced many of the same criticisms from inside the company. Two employees resigned in July 2021 over Amazon’s sale of anti-LGBTQ2S+ books. Irreversible Damage, for instance, propagates the debunked claim that teens are developing rapid onset gender dysphoria from social media, while Johnny the Walrus equates being trans to identifying as a walrus.
The content of these materials runs contrary to statements made by Amazon in March 2021 that it had “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity” as something harmful or dangerous. At the time, the company made the decision to remove the book When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson—which directly claims that trans identity is a form of untreated mental illness—from its website. The book remains unavailable via Amazon’s online platform.
Amazon isn’t the only company in recent weeks to face criticism for pandering to anti-LGBTQ2S+ forces. State Farm came under fire in May after the insurance company rolled back support for an LGBTQ2S+ education program following conservative backlash.