Amazon’s epic anti-gay fail

Adam Griffiths

If it had been any other company, no one may have noticed.

But when gay authors began noticing their works were being dropped from the top search results on for their own names and writings, some spoke up. What they discovered was that a good portion of the gay works on Amazon suddenly seemed to be untraceable. Unless you knew exactly what you were looking for, chances are you wouldn’t have found many LGBT-themed works over the course of the last week or so.

Anyone who was anyone in the gay Twittersphere this weekend dropped #amazonfail at least once in response to the perceived attack on gay authors and their works. And not just books – a search of gay cowboys this weekend didn’t even turn up “Brokeback Mountain,” the 2005 blockbuster starring the late Heath Ledger.

Self-published author Mark Probst contacted Amazon after discovering this discrepancy, and he received the following message:

“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.”

“Adult” material. There’s a difference between pornography and eroticism. A novel that describes gay or lesbian lifestyles isn’t promoting homosexuality, it’s simply telling a story like any other work of fiction.

“There was a glitch in our systems and it’s being fixed,” Amazon’s director of corporate communications, Patty Smith, told the Associated Press in an e-mail Sunday.

A “glitch” that somehow included non-fiction as well. When I typed “homosexual” into the Amazon search field yesterday, these fabulous titles were suggested to me in results sorted by “relevance:” “The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today;” “God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door: Reaching the Heart of the Gay Men and Women in Your World;” “Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would: A Fresh Christian Approach;” and “Dark Obsession: The Tragedy and Threat of the Homosexual Lifestyle.”

All good forays into that which one doesn’t know or understand should begin along these lines – the first words in “Dark Obsession,” by Timothy Dailey:

“Why do people enter the homosexual lifestyle – is it because they were ‘born’ that way or because of something that happened in their childhood? We will later examine the ‘nature versus nurture’ argument raging among scientists in the field of human sexuality. One thing is clear: the causes of sexual attraction remain elusive because the sex drive itself is extraordinarily complex and goes to the very heart of our being.” is free to practice whatever selling practices it wishes, but haphazardly excluding certain materials based on the theme of their content is shady business. This “glitch” may not cost the Web giant much given its scope, but I can’t help but imagine many gays and lesbians who shop the Web site frequently may echo the sentiment of Twitterer tokenliberal: “I may not spend thousands of dollars a year there, but I’ll shop elsewhere anyway.” I know I’m considering it.

But I guess they’re working on fixing the “glitch.” When I searched “gay” yesterday afternoon, “Murder Most Gay,” “Unmasked: Erotic Tales of Gay Superheroes” and “Every Frat Boy Wants It” were back in the top 10 results. Even “The Joy of Gay Sex” was being promoted again, but that’s another controversy in and of itself.

Adam Griffiths is a junior visual journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].