Tell Amazon to Stop Selling PEC’s Anti-Trans Conversion Therapy Book

Originally published on Reclaiming Trans

On April 7, an anti-trans organization called Partners for Ethical Care released a book called Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult by Maria Keffler, one of the organization’s co-founders. This book is currently being sold by Amazon, among other online retailers. The book accuses the trans community of being a cult indoctrinating vulnerable young people and promotes conspiracy theories about a “billion-dollar gender industry” preying on children. It claims to “[provide] a roadmap to help families navigate the treacherous terrain of gender indoctrination, and bring their children back to reality and safety.” In other words, it’s a conversion therapy manual for transphobic parents, claiming to provide them with psychological techniques for coercing their trans children into “desisting”.

Upon learning of the book’s release and listing on Amazon, I attempted to raise awareness among trans people and our allies, urging them to contact Amazon and express their disapproval of Amazon’s willingness to profit from a transphobic book that promotes not only baseless conspiracy theories but conversion therapy for trans young people. Amazon briefly unlisted the book before reinstating it, claiming it had been taken down by mistake. In between the book’s unlisting and reinstatement, PEC went to the right-wing media and rallied their supporters to contact Amazon and urge them to resume selling the book.

I had attempted to get Amazon to unlist Desist, Detrans & Detox because the company has already stopped another transphobic book, When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T Anderson. Explaining the decision, Amazon’s vice president of public policy Brian Huseman said that Amazon has “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” Surely, a book that promotes the view being trans is unhealthy, inauthentic and self-destructive, and instructs parents on how to pressure their trans child into “desisting” counts as a book that treats trans identity as a mental illness!

When Amazon decided to stop selling When Harry Became Sally, I quietly celebrated because that book had had a very personal impact on me. You see, Anderson included my story as a detrans woman and quoted my writing without my consent. While he claimed that he found the experiences of detransitioned people “heartbreaking” and that it was one of his main motivations for writing his book, I found his inclusion of my experiences and work incredibly violating. He was using my work and story to promote values and politics that I find deeply harmful and morally reprehensible. Conservative Christians like Anderson have created a culture that’s hostile to people such as myself. Finding out that he was using my experiences, including my trauma, to attack trans people was absolutely horrifying to me. I would have never consented to his use of my work had he asked me. His misuse of my work and story caused me significant psychological distress, to say nothing of the negative impact it’s had by promoting transphobia in the larger culture.

In the years since When Harry Became Sally was published, I have come out again as trans and come to understand my detransition to be something akin to conversion therapy motivated by transphobic radical feminism. I detransitioned and converted to transphobic feminism because I thought it would heal my pain and bring me wholeness. Instead it caused me years of needless psychological distress. My detransition was a manifestation of self-hatred and repression. I’m now deeply concerned about how my past words and actions have negatively impacted others, by encouraging other trans people to deny and suppress themselves and promoting transphobic beliefs in the larger culture.

This is why I feel so strongly about limiting the impact of Desist, Detrans & Detox. I know the harm such a book can do firsthand. Practicing anti-trans conversion practices on myself had a terrible impact on my mental health. It increased my depression, self-hatred, self-destructive coping mechanisms, dissociation and suicidal urges. I am still recovering from the years I spent internalizing the idea that I needed to change who I was to heal from past trauma and be whole. Instead, I have more trauma to heal from. I can only imagine the harm that such practices would have on a young non-consenting trans person, especially if performed by a parent. That is abuse, plain and simple.

I too once promoted the idea that being trans was a kind of false consciousness or maladaptive coping mechanism rooted in negative social influences, just substitute “patriarchy” for “gender industry”. I too claimed that gender dysphoria was often a symptom of unresolved trauma. And I promoted “alternative treatments” for gender dysphoria that involved learning how to accept one’s assigned sex/gender, dis-identifying from being trans, and treating all manifestations of trans identity as symptoms to be managed. I now deeply regret the role I played in spreading these baseless and harmful ideas and practices. I helped create the society where PEC can peddle their book and so I take it on myself to speak out against the damage I know they’re doing.

In order to illustrate further why I think Desist, Detrans & Detox is harmful, I am including some excerpts I found from previews of the book available online.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Praise for Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult
Acknowledgments
Dedication
Forward
Introduction
1. Transgender Ideology Is a Cult of Identity
Gender Is Meaningless; Sex Is Immutable
The Disturbing Parallels Between Cults & Gender Ideology
Destructive Influence
Preying Upon the Vulnerable
The Gender Cult Begins & Ends With Identity
2. Conversations With Your Transgender-Identified Child
Feelings vs. Reasoning
Addressing the Faulty Logic of Transgender Ideology
Boundaries
Control vs. Influence
Motivation Theory
3. Your Relationship With Your Transgender-Identified Child
3. Your Relationship With Your Transgender-Identified Child
Eleven Crucial Relationship Skills
Special Considerations: Young Children, Adolescents/Teens, & Young Adults
Young Children
Adolescents/Teens
Young Adults
Focus Always on the Goal
4. A Plan for Deprogramming Transgender-Identified Children
Figure Out What Happened
Why Might a Child Adopt a False Identity?
Facts vs. Fiction: What Is Real, What Is Being Taught, & What Is Believed?
Determine What Influences & Mind-Control Techniques Are at Work on Your Child
Sort Out the Protagonists & the Antagonists
Undertake a Campaign to Undo the Effects of Gender Brainwashing
Exerting Authority to Sever a Relationship
Distracting Your Child from a Relationship
Leading Your Child to Decide to End a Relationship
Groomers
Groomers
Summary: A Plan for Deprogramming Transgender-Identified Children
5. Unfailing Love
Unconditional Love
Tough Love
Determined Love
Dual Identities
Signs of Desistance & Boomeranging
Self-Love
6. The Rest of the Family
Caring for Your Marriage
The Special Needs of Siblings
What Siblings May Experience
Supporting Siblings
Extended Family Issues
Finding a Trustworthy Therapist
7. After Desisting
Identity
Cult-Created Fears
Fact vs. Reality
Locus of Control
Talk Therapy
Loss of Community & Resources
Restoration
Publisher’s Note
Appendix A: In Their Own Words (Messages from Desisters/Detransitioners)
Appendix B: Data from Partners for Ethical Care’s 2021 Desister/Detransitioner Survey
Appendix C: Universal Opt-Out Letter for Sexuality & Gender Ideology Training at School
Resources
Glossary
Endnotes
About the Author
Two bulleted lists comparing "cult indoctrination techniques" on the left to "peer-led sex ed/GSA clubs" on the right. Identify the potential recruit connects to At-Risk, Vulnerable, In-Counseling Kids. Persuade the recruit to walk into the web connects to Invite to GSA Club. Love-Bombing connects to Kid surrounded by community; "Brave & Stunning"; We love & understand you.
Sell, Sell, Sell connects to Celebrate LGB/TQ Constantly
Renounce Loved Ones connects to Kid separated from family; "glitter family"; "Cis" vs. Us. Introduction of Core beliefs connects to "Born this way"; "Love is Love"; pronouns, new vocabulary. Zero Tolerance of Criticism connects to No one is permitted to question the narrative; "Bigot, Homophobe, Transphobe, Hater"
Transgender ideology is a profoundly destructive influence, not only on its own followers, but on their families, and on society as a whole:
Transgender-identified people are encouraged not only to transition socially with respect to their clothing, hairstyle, and mannerisms, but to medicalize themselves via puberty blockers that impede brain development, wrong-sex hormones that ravage the endocrine system, and disfiguring surgeries that often leave patients incontinent, impotent, and infertile.43,44,45
Transgender-identified people are taught that if their families don’t instantly applaud their new identities, those families are toxic and must be excised from the transgender-identified person’s life.
Transgender-identified people’s long-term outcomes are generally not favorable. They overwhelmingly experience homelessness, joblessness, and poverty.46 They often end up trafficked into the sex trade,47 and they suffer a panoply of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, domestic abuse, suicidal ideation, and completed suicide.48 While transgender-rights activists assign societal bigotry as the root of all of these ills, such a conclusion is unwarranted. A 30-year longitudinal study in Sweden, perhaps one of the most LGB- & TQ-friendly nations in the world, found that even after sex-reassignment surgery, mental health outcomes for transgender-identified people remained abysmal.49

That gender ideology is a destructive cult must be understood before one can effectively take on the task of helping bring a child or loved one out of it. This is not a phase that kids will pass through, nor is it a trend they’re trying on. A systematic and intentional brainwashing has been undertaken upon our children and our society, for the purpose of political and financial gain.50
The cult of gender ideology seems to specifically prey upon children, and especially those children in the phase of life surrounding their identity development. The children who seem most susceptible to the cult’s manipulation are those who already have strikes against them:
Autistic kids often feel like they don’t fit in with others. They struggle to understand social situations and many suffer with sensory issues that can make them feel at odds with their own bodies. The gender industry tells them they feel this way because they’re transgender, and they’ll feel better about themselves after they transition socially, medically, and surgically. Sex transition is a quick-fix deception that will do nothing to address the real needs associated with autism.56
Kids who have suffered prior trauma (like physical or sexual abuse, rejection, parental divorce, or a harrowing accident or illness) may have developed coping skills that work in the short term but are ultimately unhealthy, such as dissociation, co-dependency, aggressiveness, or self-harm. The gender industry tells them they feel pain because they’re transgender, and they’ll feel better after they transition socially, medically, and surgically. (They probably won’t.) Sex transition is just another maladaptive coping technique that ultimately proves physically and psychologically destructive.57
Kids who struggle socially, or who perceive themselves as unliked, unpopular, or awkward, seek strategies to either overcome or escape their unhappiness. The child may join an unhealthy or destructive friend group if the option arises, or may go all-in on a lone-wolf or outsider persona. The gender industry tells these kids that they struggle with relationships because they’re transgender, and they’ll fit in after they transition socially, medically, and surgically. In the near term, this is true, because kids experience the gender industry’s manufactured love-bombing as soon as they utter the phrase, “I’m transgender.” They will be told that being transgender is “brave and stunning.” However, just like joining a destructive friend group, signing on to the transgender agenda ultimately leaves one worse off than when s/he began.

Gender activists and clinicians will use nearly any diagnosis, suspected diagnosis, or vulnerability to claim that people are transgender. It is not sensationalism or overgeneralization to say that the gender industry can and does target any human being who expresses any sort of discomfort, psychological unease, or personal crisis to push him or her onto the medicalization conveyer belt.58
Diagram titled Motivation Theory using quadrants to show how to reinforce or extinguish behavior. Behavior can be reinforced by giving a person they want or removing something they don't want. Behavior can be extinguished by giving something unwanted or removing something wanted.
Motivation theory is pretty simple. There are behaviors that you either want to encourage (reinforce) or discourage (extinguish). You have two methods by which to reinforce or extinguish a behavior: you can provide something to the other person (GIVE), or you can withhold something (REMOVE). That something may be either WANTED or UNWANTED. This chart shows what effect the combinations are likely to have on the target behavior:
When you link someone’s specific behavior to obtaining something that person wants or having something unwanted removed, you encourage the person to continue (i.e., you reinforce) that behavior.
Conversely, removing something a person wants or providing something they don’t want in connection with a particular behavior tends to have the effect of discouraging (or extinguishing) that behavior.

As you can see, the book casts the trans community as a dangerous cult recruiting vulnerable young people and specifically targets GSA and other LGBT support groups in schools as “recruitment sites”. It implies that autistic people, trauma survivors and others suffering from psychological distress, and young people in general are incapable of knowing what gender they are. It promotes Behavorist techniques, similar to those used in ABA, to push young trans people towards “desisting”. ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis is a “treatment” developed to make autistic people act more neurotypical and is widely decried as abusive and harmful. It was invented by a therapist who also created a form of anti-gay conversion therapy, using similar methods. Rather than promoting ethical care of trans youth, PEC would be better described as a group for “Parents Enforcing Conformity”.

Desist, Detrans & Detox is just one example of the harm Maria Keffler and her organization PEC is promoting. PEC promotes baseless conspiracy theories about a “gender industry” pushing medical transition on young people that’s supposedly funded by billionaires to advance a transhumanist agenda. Another founder of PEC, Alix Aharon, stole a map of clinics offering trans healthcare created by Erin Reed and repurposed it as the “Gender Mapper project”. As the “Gender Mapper” Aharon claims to be documenting the harms and excesses of the “gender industry” so that doctors providing trans healthcare to young people can be “held accountable”. Even more troubling, Aharon and others associated with her Gender Mapper project have submitted testimony in favor of bills outlawing pediatric transition, including the recently passed bill in Arkansas. PEC has also taken part in protests at clinics offering healthcare to trans youth. On March 14, they helped organize protests at three clinics across the country, in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and New York City, with signs bearing transphobic slogans and headless images of transmasculine people who’d had top surgery.

All sales of Desist, Detrans & Detox will go to funding PEC. Not only does the book itself encourage harm towards trans children whose parents purchase it but it also funds a hate group that is working to make pediatric transition inaccessible to all trans children, even those whose parents support them. Not only that, PEC is also working to stop schools from including trans-friendly material and LGBT youth groups. They are doing all they can to “de-trans” young trans people, since they see their identities as the products of the malevolent ‘gender industry” and sinister “trans cult” instead of their authentic selves.

Please contact Amazon and let them know that selling this book is unacceptable and that they should unlist it at once. This book pathologizes trans people, calls us cult members and dupes of a “gender industry”, and promotes dangerous psychological techniques to pressure trans youth into “desisting”. It promotes conversion therapy, misinformation and conspiracy theories. And worse yet, sales of this book funds a hate group that doing all it can to make it impossible for trans young people to live openly and freely as they are.

You can can contact Amazon at:

  • Email: primary@amazon.com
  • Phone: 1–888–280–4331

You can also report the book for inappropriate content by going to the book’s page Amazon and scrolling down near the bottom. The book is also being sold at Lulu and Smashwords and violates both sites’ terms of service for offensive material. Please report the book on these sites as well and request that it be removed.

Meanwhile, A Room of One’s Own, an independent queer/trans-owned feminist bookstore in Madison WI, did the right thing and refused to sell the book. In response they’ve been harassed online by TERFs and other transphobes. Please consider thanking them for taking a stand and supporting them by ordering books from their site. They also encouraged supporters to donate to trans people and organizations, particularly organizations that center Black trans people.

A Room of One’s Own has a very special place in my heart. I have family in Madison and have stopped by the bookstore many times during family visits. They were especially important to me when I was young genderfreaky queer teenager who frequently felt alienated living in a rural conservative area. A Room of One’s Own was a place where I could finally find culture that represented me and let me know I wasn’t alone. In addition to books written by queer and trans people, I found buttons and patches, including a purple pin with the word “Dyke” that I still have to this day. I wore it to my high school to indicate that I wasn’t ashamed of being who I was, even though I got harassment from both other students and teachers as a result of being so out.

I know firsthand how important it is for young queer and trans people to find support and how devastating it can be when those around you refuse to respect who you are or try to tear you down instead. I know how damaging it is to be exposed to an ideology that says that being trans is harmful, inauthentic and a result of trauma and negative social influences. I know how harmful it can be to internalize those ideas and how much suffering can result. I am speaking out against this book because I lived through the kind of harm that it pushes. I cannot stand by knowing how much young trans people will suffer as a result of the ideas and practices this book promotes.

PEC and their book are a symptom of a larger transphobic social order that targets all trans people but is currently focusing much of its attention on trans youth. Anti-trans groups are trying to reduce the number of trans people by making it as hard as possible to grow up trans or live openly as a trans person. Even if we succeed in getting Amazon to pull Desist, Detrans & Detox, the fight will continue. The work we need to do to build a society where trans people can live freely is just getting started.