Bookseller ‘sacked from Waterstones’ after row with author over trans rights

Bookseller ‘sacked from Waterstones’ after row with author over trans rights

Former Waterstones bookseller Tilly Fitzgerald shares book reviews with her 90,000 followers on Instagram, where she is known as @TillyLovesBooks (Picture:REX / TillyLovesBooks)

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

The high street retailer has found itself in hot water after a tearful video by former employee Tilly Fitzgerald, known as @TillyLovesBooks on social media.

In it, she described herself as ‘an exemplary employee’ who’s been fired by a company with ‘no morals’ after she got into a social media spat with the author.

Fitzgerald said: ‘I’ve just been sacked from the only job I’ve ever loved, genuinely loved, because of the actions of a really hateful person and author called Christina Dalcher.

‘She’s not huge, but apparently she has enough sway to get me sacked.

‘I told her on Twitter that I was going to throw away her books after I found out that she was a bigot and just trying to get lots of other people in the publishing industry fired purely for standing up for trans rights.’

Fitzgerald made the offending comment in late June following the launch of SEEN Publishing, a network for industry professionals ‘concerned about the impact of gender ideology on our sector and wider society’.

‘Gender ideology’ is a term used by critics of a collection of beliefs, including that sex and gender are separate, that sex is not a binary of ‘man or woman’, and that trans men are men and trans women are women.

Tilly Fitzgerald was sacked after telling Christina Dalcher she would tear up and bin her own copies of the author’s books (Picture: TillyLovesBooks/Instagram)

Dalcher, in her own words, ‘called out’ an X post from one publishing professional who described the launch as ‘so disgusting, shame on all those involved’.

Fitzgerald, from Worthing, responded to Dalcher saying: ‘Ooh I’ll enjoy tearing your books up and popping them in the bin today. Thanks for the heads up.’

Dalcher, who in recent days has published posts praising a Holocaust denier and doubting the French National Rally’s far-right credentials, then shared a screenshot of this exchange, asking Fitzgerald’s then-employer Waterstones: ‘You okay with this?’

The author hadn’t considered that Fitzgerald might be referring to books for sale at Waterstones, saying: ‘I thought she just meant the ones she owned.’

But there was soon speculation on social media that Fitzgerald intended to destroy Waterstones property, an idea she dismissed after losing her job.

She said: ‘My initial comments weren’t trying to get anyone cancelled or taken off shop shelves.

‘I was speaking of my choice to throw my own books of theirs away as I didn’t want to personally support them.’

Fitzgerald had previously spoken positively about Dalcher and her writing, apparently prior to learning of the author’s views regarding transgender people.

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

Waterstones confirmed in an X post that Fitzgerald’s dismissal ‘was on the grounds of contravening Waterstones policies and has nothing to do with transgender rights’.

Fitzgerald told The Independent: ‘I acknowledge that my comments were a violation of the social media policy, and I did apologise for any trouble caused, however, I think the punishment was disproportionate and a warning would have been more appropriate.’

Dalcher has downplayed her own role in the saga, which she’s described as pointless.

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

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

Waterstones has faced further questions after one of its X accounts appeared to share a post by author Irvine Welsh

The controversy has prompted some LGBT+ book lovers to banish the retailer from their shopping list.

One Fitzgerald supporter wrote on Instagram: ‘I always found comfort walking into a Waterstones shop. This changes today with the news about @tillylovesbooks.

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

‘In the meantime, I will be shopping elsewhere and hope others do to.’

This has been exacerbated by one Waterstones account on X appearing to share a post by author Irvine Welsh questioning what a woman is.

One X user, Matthew, said: ‘Hi @Waterstones, I assume that since you so quickly fired a member of staff over their comments about a transphobic author, you’ll also be firing the member of staff who retweeted this post from the @WstonesLeeds account?

‘Or is it ok because they were reposting transphobia?’

Asked to comment on LGBT+ customers’ reaction to Fitzgerald’s dismissal, a Waterstones spokesperson told ‘We are an inclusive employer and follow due process in HR matters.

‘For obvious reasons we are unable to comment on the specifics of individual cases.’

Metro has contacted Christina Dalcher’s representatives for comment.

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