Gay Lit Too ‘Adult’ for Amazon.com


Are gay books any more “adult” than straight ones? Amazon.com seems to think so. The web retailer has mysteriously begun re-classifying gay-themed books — novels, parenting guides, self-help titles, and even biographies — as “adult,” while stripping the sales ranking data (the figure that tells you how well a particular title is selling compared to other books) from them as well.

Among the affected authors: Jamie O’Neill, Edmund White, and Andre Acima, according to the Meta Writer community. (They’ve got a continually updated list of re-classified books.) Michelangelo Signorile’s Outing Yourself: How to Come Out as Lesbian or Gay to Your Family, Friends, and Coworkers, a how-to guide on breaking the news about your sexuality, is among those claimed. Aaron Raz Link and Hilda Raz’s autobiography What Becomes You and Kate Bornstein’s suicide help guide Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws got hit, too.

The Easter Sunday change means an entire swath of LGBT literature has been deemed X-rated, and these books are no longer included in sales ranking data — veritably deeming them worthless of comparison against other fare.


Blogger and author Mark Probst first noticed the change when his own book The Filly lost its sales rank number. When a confused Probst contacted Amazon, he received this reply:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D
Member Services
Amazon.com Advantage

Undoubtedly, there’s a new policy change at Amazon, and they didn’t plan on telling us — or authors — about it. And it appears only books Amazon tagged as “Gay & Lesbian” are affected; books of the same nature, but dealing with heteosexual themes and love affairs, don’t appear to be losing out.

UPDATE: Memorist Craig Seymour, best known for outing Matt Drudge in his book All I Could Bare, blogs that his title has also been crapped on by Amazon.

UPDATE: Twitter is one homebase for outrage.

UPDATE: A petition that argues “We find it hypocritical that Amazon continues to sell adult books but thinks that removing the sales rating to (keep them out of the public eye) will achieve this” is now available for you to sign.

(Image via Bill T)

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  • Rob W.

    Boycott Amazon.com.

  • Brianna

    Didn’t you know? These books will turn children gay. We must protect the children!


  • Qjersey

    Great, so thanks to the Internets, our local LGBT bookstores are closing down right and left and now the major online bookseller brands classic LGBT works as porn.

  • atdleft

    @Qjersey: Well, now we have a chance to prevent any more from closing. Whatever I planned to buy at Amazon I’ll now be getting at my local INDEPENDENT bookstore. Btw, I’ll also be DEFINITELY crossing the Kindle off my “techie wish list”!

    @Rob W.: I’ll join you! No mo’ Amazon for me.

  • Brianna

    Okay, so the books show up if you search under books but not when you search in all departments. I.e. “Rubyfruit Jungle.” Type that and search in “all departments” and instead you get “Annie on My Mind” as the first result. How does that make sense?

  • Harrison

    I saw this developing on Twitter this morning, and I decided to cancel my order of Best Gay Poetry 2008, which I just bought yesterday. If they are indeed censoring us, then they can have none of my fabulous pink money, thank you very much.

    In other news, I hear that Powell’s Books is planning a sale on all LGBT books in response to Amazon’s PR mistake.

  • Rob W.

    @Harrison: You can buy Best Gay Poetry 2008 from TLAbooks or queerbooks.com.

  • Rob W.

    Or Powell’s Books. There are so many alternatives for LGBT material than Amazon. Publishers should pull books from Amazon.

  • Alexa

    I hate shopping, so I spend a small fortune at Amazon each year, on all kinds of things. I just canceled six recurring orders, giving this as the reason. I am beyond furious.

  • Qjersey

    okay so you really wanna stir up a shitstorm…

    I did a search on “homosexuality” on amazon and checked out the top ten results (by relevance).

    All but two had no sales rank.

    Here are the two that still had rankings:

    A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Paperback)
    Can Homosexuality Be Healed? (Paperback)

  • Lev Raphael

    My 19th book, “My Germany,” has been de-listed because it mentions that I’m gay and discusses in part my search for identity.

    The book is almost entirely about my parents’ Holocaust years and my long tangled relationship with Germany, real and imagined.


    What amazon has done is disgraceful. I suggest all authors who are offended contact amazon, their editors and agents. And sign the on-line petition.

  • scott ny'er

    there’s always the famous different light bookstore… they have an online version. http://www.adlbooks.com/

    i wonder if borders or barnes and noble did the same thing. I would say, they are the biggest threat to Amazon’s sales, no?

    this is disappointing. I do love my Amazon.

  • pezzy

    Seriously, I am beyond pissed. Just cancelled my Kindle order. That’s $350 item with loads of charges after I buy it. Going Sony E reader instead. There loss.

  • Brianna


    here’s a comment posted on that blog:

    “Thank you. Other people following this story have noticed that books on preventing suicide in gay teens (Dead Boys Can’t Dance: Sexual Orientation, Masculinity, and Suicide) were de-ranked, while “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality” and “Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies?” sail through just fine.”

  • Greg Ever

    My local Barnes & Noble bookstore also removed their gay and lesbian section. I was looking for it last week and it simply vanished. I couldn’t find a single gay-themed nonfiction book. (I don’t know about fiction, I didn’t look for those, not really interested.)

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)

    @Lev Raphael:


  • Brianna

    @Greg Ever:

    What in the hell is going on? Are these companies being pressured into this or what?

    Also, @Lev Raphael:, that sucks. If they don’t do away with this policy soon maybe you and other affected authors could get together and start something in protest.

  • atdleft

    @Lev Raphael: I’m so sorry! Can we find your book at Powell’s? Your book sounds amazing, and it’s beyond reprehensible that Amazon would rate your book as “X-rated”!

  • atdleft

    @Greg Ever: Huh? That’s weird. Where’s the store? I guess I’ll need to see if my local Barnes & Noble has done the same. In the mean time…


    Check here to find ypur local independent book store & support the booksellers that support our community.

  • Phoenix (Sparkly Agent Of The Gay Agenda)

    @Lev Raphael: I typed your name into the search engine at Powell’s Books and all your books pop right up.

    @ Brianna: “Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies?” sails through just fine but “Heather Has Two Mommies” does not. WTF is up with that? It isn’t even remotely pornographic or even adult lit!

  • JR

    I just did a search on Randy Shilts’ books, The Mayor of Castro Street has been left untouched…no doubt due to the popularity of Milk; And the Band Played On has also been left alone…no doubt due to the fact that it is #1 in it’s category — and that book has some pretty graphic information (so does Mayor of Castro Street for that matter). But Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the US Military has been reclassified.

    So apparently, while Amazon is being operated by gutless, cowardly, trolls — they are at least gutless, cowardly, capitalist trolls who are willing to compromise for books that make them a lot of money.

    Screw ’em, I’ll buy my Pampers someplace else…and all the other crap I buy for my kids there too.

  • DC Steve

    I encourage everyone to take 30 seconds to go to http://tinyurl.com/5bz43e (redirects to Amazon’s general customer service form) and tell them how you feel.

  • Brianna

    @Phoenix (Sparkly Agent Of The Gay Agenda):

    Mmhm. And when you search for “homosexuality” the first three books that pop up are:

    “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality”
    “You Don’t Have to Be Gay: Hope and Freedom for Males Struggling With Homosexuality or for Those Who Know of Someone Who Is”
    “Can Homosexuality Be Healed?”

    But they do have the documentary “For the Bible Told Me So” and “King & King & Family” on that page, to be fair.

  • Greg Ever

    @atdleft: The Barnes & Noble I went to is in NJ where I live… sorry, I don’t want to be any more specific than that for privacy reasons, but I do plan on going to some other B&N stores nearby to see if they have also removed their gay and lesbian sections.

  • DC Steve

    @JR: I had a similar thought when I noticed “The Naked Civil Servant” (Quentin Crisp’s autobiography) had been de-listed, but perennial favorite “Naked Lunch” was still on the charts. Oh the irony!

  • di

    Het romance tagged as erotic or erotic has also been unranked & unlisted in the main search, but apparently Playboy videos and sex toys aren’t “adult” and still searchable/ranked.

    Dear Author, a romance reader blog has a good run down of what happened and when here:


    Including a link to Amazon’s response to Publisher’s Weekly. Apparently it was a “glitch.” Uh…yeah….


  • Brianna

    @JR: “The Mayor Of Castro Street” shows up when you search for it, but it has still been deranked.

    In other words, it should say in the product details “Amazon.com Sales Rank: #____ in Books” From what I understand, this means it won’t appear in recommendations or on the best seller list and in some cases will be further down on the search list.

  • John Santos

    Well, on Amazon.ca (Canada) the book, “And Tango Makes Three” was not de-ranked and came up with the search word homosexuality.

    However, the search word gay only brought up erotica all of which were de-ranked books.

    And lastly, Brokeback Mountain came up and was not de-ranked. Could this just be in America?

  • John Santos

    Lev, I just did a search for your name on Amazon.ca and I think most of your books came up. But some were de-ranked and others were not and there did not seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Hot Rocks from 2007 is de-ranked, but Burning Down The House from 2002 is not. A Teacher’s Guide to Stick Up for Yourself is not de-ranked, but Coming Out of Shame, as well as Secret Anniversaries of the Heart are.

    It seems that anything that might be deemd LGBTQ positive has been de-ranked. Who owns Amazon and what are their political and religious affiliations? How do we find out

  • Kevin Gotkin

    IT’S ANDRE ACIMAN.. with an N.

  • John Santos

    I found it. You can contact their CEO:

    Jeffrey Bezos
    1200 12th Avenue South,
    Seattle, Washington 98144-2734
    United States Phone: 206-266-1000
    Fax: 206-622-2405

    And written letter with a stamp gets more attention than an email. A phone call will do it too. Let’s get on his ass.

  • Chitown Kev

    Ok, it is being reported on a number of sites that this was a “glitch” (yeah, right).

    Amazon Says Glitch to Blame for “New” Adult Policy
    By Rachel Deahl & Jim Milliot — Publishers Weekly, 4/12/2009 5:49:00 PM

    A groundswell of outrage, concern and confusion sprang up over the weekend, largely via Twitter, in response to what authors and others believed was a decision by Amazon to remove adult titles from its sales ranking. On Sunday evening, however, an Amazon spokesperson said that a glitch had occurred in its sales ranking feature that was in the process of being fixed. The spokesperson added that there was no new adult policy.

  • Landon Bryce

    Boycott Amazon until it donates millions to GLSEN in contrition.

  • Brianna

    @Chitown Kev:

    Yeah, way to redefine the word “glitch”, Amazon. Last I checked, glitches don’t produce messages like this:

    “In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

    Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

    Best regards,

    Ashlyn D
    Member Services
    Amazon.com Advantage”

  • John Santos

    How does Amazon justify classifying queer lit as “adult”? This isn’t about soft-core porn not being ranked; it about Dead Boys Can’t Dance: Sexual Orientation, Masculinity, and Suicide being labeled adult material and being de-ranked. What a bunch of douchebags.

  • Brianna

    @Greg Ever:

    Apparently it’s not a nationwide. I was just on freerepublic and one of them had this to say on the Amazon post there:

    “At a nearby Barnes & Noble, there is an entire gay & lesbian section, yet I have to go somewhere else to find one measly copy of Louis Hunter’s “Steamboats on the Western Rivers” (which is a definitive study). Can I file a lawsuit?”

    Cue eye-rolling.

  • Lance Rockland

    This is an outrage. A complete fucking outrage.

    Corporate homophobia at its worst.

    Don’t these Amazon bozos know that the Bush era is over? That brand of religious fascism is in the past.

    Or maybe it isn’t.

    I’m cancelling my order immediately and will never buy from them again!

  • Brianna

    Just read the rest of the freepers comments on this story. As usual, all they can think about is gay sex.

  • Greg Ever

    @Brianna: Thanks for the info. Hopefully it’s just that one store near me that has done this and not all of them.

  • alan brickman

    i’m still buying from them, but I’m also letting them know how I feel about this….and maybe a few newsites too….

  • Puck

    No, Im thinking about how difficult it is for me to buy gay books and movies. How often i would look at a title before buying. The search for decent LGBT literature isl ong because alot of it is crap or sex based. How scared I was that someone would know I bought it. How i would buy multiple things to have the gay stuff hid in the middle. Amazon can go fuck itself now, even if it was a glitch its unacceptable. I will never buy from them again

  • Ryan Dunlove

    lol, if this isnt some irony
    there is an amazon.com advert at the bottom of this article for me

  • Mary Taylor

    on amazon.co.uk there seems to be the same ‘problem’. for example books on civil unions, eg planning a civil union have been de-ranked, even from the lesbian and gay ranking, while dvds of milk and brokeback mountain have not. it seems at random. for example heather has two mommies is deranked but and tango makes three is not ???? :?

  • Jeremy Sterritt

    Amazon’s reply to Probst is stilted, grammatically dubious, and reads like a Mad-lib. Software-generated response? Recent college grad? It’s obviously cobbled together from cut-n-paste boilerplate, but who filled in the blanks? I’d like to see Probst’s message and see where ‘”adult” material’ (‘adult materials’ in the next sentence) and the word ‘ranks’ (for rankings) entered the dialog. ‘Hence’?!?

  • Anthony in Nashville

    What a strange story. I was looking for some gay books on Amazon a few days ago and couldn’t understand why they weren’t showing up, even as a used book.

    I think this shows the pitfalls of giving all our business to online retailers that may not really respect our community.

    Amazon is the online Wal Mart, using their pricing structure to effectively close local stores.

    I’ll be taking my business elsewhere.

  • Lev Raphael

    It’s worse than it seems.

    It’s important to realize that they’re not just ghettoizing gay books, but also gay authors whether a book has much gay content or not.

    Here are amazon reader tags for “My Germany,” one of my books that’s been de-ranked:

    lev raphael(7)
    gay and lesbian(4)

    The tags accurately reflect the book’s themes and subjects (though it’s also a travelogue and I don’t know if that’s an amazon tag or not).


  • Jordan McAuley

    I love Amazon, but this is messed up. I first noticed that the rankings for two of my books, ‘The Out Traveler: Atlanta’ (OutTravelerAtlanta.com) and ‘ATLANTAboy: An Insider’s Guide to Gay Atlanta’ (ATLANTAboy.com) disappeared a few weeks ago. These are travel guides (in no way adult) that have received positive reviews from mainstream media like the Associated Press, USA Today, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Atlanta magazine, and National Public Radio.

  • Ali

    To get an idea of the thousands and thousands of books affected, search the tag on Amazon, Amazonfail: http://www.amazon.com/tag/amazonfail/

    It’s been used on over a thousand books affected by this already. Please add more when you see them, or tag your favourite books.

  • dianne

    Please do not take away what we enjoy. WE HAVE RIGHTS like everyone else does to enjoy a book even though if its contents. We are proud of who we are and NO you should not take away some of the most famous Gay authors such as Gerri Hill or Frankie J Jones that we enjoy reading.


  • Dean

    I just checked Amazon and the sales rankings were there.

  • Jeff O'Connor

    How will Lynn Cheney support her family now that lesbian porn is being censored on Amazon.com?!

    I want erotic menstruation stories, dammit!

    Well, not really…

  • martin

    How does Amazon justify classifying queer lit as “adult”? This isn’t about soft-core porn not being ranked; it about Dead Boys Can’t Dance: Sexual Orientation, Masculinity, and Suicide being labeled adult material and being de-ranked. What a bunch of douchebags, this shows people still needs to be more open minded about others sexual orientation

Comments are closed.