Bookseller ‘fired from Waterstones’ after trans rights row with author

Bookseller ‘fired from Waterstones’ after trans rights row with author

Bookseller ‘fired from Waterstones’ after trans rights row with author
Former Waterstones bookseller Tilly Fitzgerald shares book reviews with her 90,000 followers on Instagram, where she is known as @TillyLovesBooks (Photo: REX / TillyLovesBooks)

Waterstones has been criticised for sacking a bookseller who threatened to bin author Christina Dalcher’s books over her views on transgender people.

The retailer has run into trouble after an emotional video posted by former employee Tilly Fitzgerald, known as @TillyLovesBooks, on social media.

She described herself as “a model employee” who was fired by a company “with no morals” after getting into a social media spat with the author.

Fitzgerald said: ‘I have just been fired from the only job I have ever loved, truly loved, because of the actions of an incredibly hateful person and author named Christina Dalcher.

‘She’s not big, but she apparently has enough influence to get me fired.

“I told her on Twitter that I was going to throw her books away after I found out she was an intolerant woman who was only trying to get other people in the publishing industry fired just for standing up for trans rights.”

Fitzgerald made the offensive comment in late June, following the launch of SEEN Publishing, a network for industry professionals who are “concerned about the impact of gender ideology on our sector and wider society.”

“Gender ideology” is a term critics use to describe a collection of beliefs, including the idea that sex and gender are separate, that sex does not consist of the duality of “man or woman,” and that trans men are men and trans women are women.

Tilly laughs, her long blond hair falling over the vertical white-and-blue stripes of her shirt, and bookshelves faintly visible in the background.
Tilly Fitzgerald was fired after telling Christina Dalcher she would tear up and throw away her own copies of the author’s books (Photo: TillyLovesBooks/Instagram)

Dalcher, she said, called on a publishing industry professional to “do an X-post,” describing the launch as “so disgusting, shame on everyone involved.”

Fitzgerald, from Worthing, responded to Dalcher by saying: ‘Ooh, I’m excited to rip up your books and throw them in the bin today. Thanks for the warning.’

Dalcher, who has in recent days published posts praising a Holocaust denier and questioning the far-right credentials of the Rassemblement National, subsequently shared a screenshot of the exchange and asked Fitzgerald’s then-employer Waterstones: “Are you OK with this?”

The author had not considered that Fitzgerald might have been referring to books for sale at Waterstones. He said: ‘I thought she meant only the books she owned herself.’

But speculation soon arose on social media that Fitzgerald was planning to destroy Waterstone’s property, a notion she dismissed after losing her job.

She said: ‘My initial comments were not intended to cause people to cancel their subscriptions or take them off the shelves.

“I talked about my choice to throw my own books away from them because I didn’t want to support them personally.”

Fitzgerald had previously spoken positively about Dalcher and her work, apparently before he was aware of the author’s views on transgender people.

In May 2021, she posted on X: ‘I’m so excited to be part of the cover reveal of Femlandia, the fantastic new novel from Christina Dalcher, author of the brilliant dystopian novels Vox and Q!’

Waterstones confirmed in an X-message that Fitzgerald’s dismissal “was based on a breach of Waterstones policy and had nothing to do with transgender rights.”

Fitzgerald told The Independent: “I acknowledge that my comments breached social media policy and I have apologised for any distress caused. However, I feel the punishment was disproportionate and a warning would have been more appropriate.”

Dalcher has downplayed her own role in the saga, calling it pointless.

In an X-post she said: ‘The Mafia had already turned on me. My writing career is already over. I couldn’t find a publisher or an agent even if I were the last semi-literate person on earth (many say I am!). I am happily retired.

‘So there was never any reason for anyone to do this. Or to gloat.’

A Waterstone Leeds X account reposting a post by Irvine Welsh saying 'Have you decided what a woman is yet?' in response to an X post by Harriet Harman saying: 'Now registering 264 Women MPs! Opportunity to work cross-party on women's priorities. @fawcettsociety will be holding a meeting of all women MPs so they can start building a powerful Women's Caucus. Childcare, violence against women, equal pay. The time for change is now!'
Waterstones faced further questions after one of its X accounts appeared to share a post from author Irvine Welsh

The controversy has led some LGBT+ book lovers to cross the retailer off their shopping lists.

One Fitzgerald supporter wrote on Instagram: ‘I’ve always enjoyed walking into a Waterstones store. That changes today with the news of @tillylovesbooks.

‘Like many others, I hope that Waterstones head office will take a good look in the mirror and decide not only to support Tilly, but also to stand with the LGBTQ+ community.

‘In the meantime, I’ll shop elsewhere and I hope others will too.’

This was further compounded by a Waterstones account on X, which shared a post by author Irvine Welsh, questioning what a woman is.

An X user, Matthew, said: ‘Hi @Waterstones, I assume that since you were so quick to fire a member of staff for his comments about a transphobic author, you will also fire the member of staff who retweeted this from the @WstonesLeeds account?

“Or is it okay because they’re reposting transphobia?”

Asked to comment on the reaction of LGBT+ customers to Fitzgerald’s dismissal, a Waterstones spokesperson told Metro.co.uk: ‘We are an inclusive employer and follow a fair process in HR matters.

‘For obvious reasons, we cannot comment on the details of individual cases.’

Metro has contacted Christina Dalcher’s representatives for comment.

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