Anyone looking to buy a copy of the Trans Teen Survival Guide on Target.com this week may have noticed something unusual: The word “transgender” was nowhere to be found in the book’s description. Instead, it was bleeped out.
Customers who visited the pre-order page for the nonfiction book — which is due out on Sept. 20 — were greeted with a series of asterisks in place of LGBTQ terminology.
“Frank, friendly and funny, Trans Teen Survival Guide will leave ****** and nonbinary teens informed, empowered, and armed with all the tips, confidence and practical advice they need to navigate life as a trans teen,” the book’s description briefly read.
Author Cáel Keegan brought the issue to the attention of the national big-box chain after his own book was censored. On the webpage for his volume on Lana and Lilly Wachowski in the Contemporary Film Directors series, it described the auteurs behind Sense8 and The Matrix trilogy as “the world’s most influential ****** media producers.”
“Transgender” wasn’t the only word bleeped on Target.com, he pointed out.
In an attempt to monitor offensive language, the website also bleeped the reclaimed anti-LGBTQ slur “queer,” as well as the word “Nazi.”
Representatives with the University of Illinois Press, which published the forthcoming scholarly text, reached out to Target on Monday to correct the error. But as Publishers Weekly originally reported, the issue was not addressed until its publicity manager, Heather Gernenz, sent a second request to the company on Wednesday.
Other works impacted include Eric Rosswood and Kathleen Archambeau’s We Make It Better: The LGBTQ Community and their Positive Contributions to Society and Jack Halberstam’s Trans: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability.
Both web pages have since been updated to include the excised LGBTQ language.
The company attributed the issue to a flaw in its algorithm, which is intended to bleep out “profanity and other select words… to ensure a positive shopping experience.”
“This was an oversight on our part, and they should be included,” claimed Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck in a statement. “We’re working to update our site with the descriptions that were provided to Target by the book publishers.”
The controversy is a reversal of fortune for the popular retailer, which until recently had been lauded for LGBTQ inclusion.
Following the passage of North Carolina’s anti-trans HB 2 in 2016, Target announced customers would be free to “use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” When that policy led to a conservative boycott of the chain, Target spent $20 million to install gender-neutral bathrooms in its 1,800 locations. Despite continued right-wing backlash, this year the company sold rainbow children’s toys in its collection of LGBTQ Pride month merchandise.
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