Plagiarism in two Children’s Books about Gender

#Columbused #GenderWheel #GenderNow #StolenWork

Download bookmark for Who Are You Kids Guide to Gender Identity Pessin-Whedbee and Gender Identity Workbook for Kids Storck

Documentation of Plagiarism for

Who Are You? the kid’s guide to gender identity
by Brook Pessin-Whedbee published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2017

and

The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids/ A Guide to Exploring Who You Are
by Kelly Storck, published by Instant Help Books, an imprint of New Harbinger Publications in 2018.

As mentioned in a related blog post, both authors are tied to the Gender Spectrum conference/community in the SF Bay Area during the same time period that I was presenting my Gender Now curriculum. For more on that, view my related blog post.

This is a follow-up discussing the specifics of the plagiarism.

It is worth noting that there is also distortion of my non-Western framework when used in a Western context. In the case of Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity (Brook Pessin-Whedbee, Jessica Kingsley Publishers), the text on and describing The Gender Wheel is written in a particularly white and Western way. As Chicanx, drawing from my experience and studies outside of a Western frame, this not only distorts and damages The Gender Wheel’s origins and core meaning, it fully erases me as the creator.


Who Are You? the kid’s guide to gender identity

by Brook Pessin-Whedbee published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2017. Age 3 and up.

In my Gender Now Coloring Book published in 2010 and again as a School Edition in 2011, the Gender Wheel is on 31 of the 52 pages, including the cover. Due to the importance of The Gender Wheel to my work Matthew and I listed The Gender Wheel as a trademark of Reflection Press, our independent press, on the copyright pages.

In the interior pages of the story of Who Are You? the kid’s guide to gender identity there is no mention of anything related to circles or wheels, only a spectrum in the text. On the very last page and without context, “The Gender Wheel” appears in a heading with a brief intro and description of the three circles in reference to a take-out wheel in a plastic sleeve inside the back cover.

“Who Are You” Plagiarism:
  1. Uses the same trademarked name: The Gender Wheel
  2. Uses the same three concentric circle concept
  3. Uses same frame: Body circle, and Identity or Gender/”Inside” circle
  4. Pessin-Whedbee’s co-opted Gender Wheel adds Expression for the 3rd circle
  5. My book, The Gender Wheel published in 2017 further explores the 3rd circle with Pronouns
  6. Without any prior mention ‘About The Gender Wheel’ appears on page 27.
    • Author narrative changes from ‘I’ to ‘We:’
      • “We chose the wheel because the concentric circles capture the complex and layered nature and the endless possibilities of gender.” “We simplified this concept…” “We included…”
      • But then contradicts herself/their selves in the next sentence, while showing their lack of understanding about the infinite nature of circles:
      • “While this book is all about breaking down binary notions of gender, this tool is still limited as it offers a finite number of categories for concepts that are, in fact, much more complex.”

After much back and forth with the publisher (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)  and confronting Brook in person, they acquiesced to change the name to “The Interactive Wheel” at their next reprinting. They maintain they did nothing wrong and would not take action to address the plagiarism or the damage done or that continues to be done.



The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids: A Guide to Exploring Who You Are

by Kelly Storck, published by Instant Help Books, an imprint of New Harbinger Publications in 2018. Age 5-12.

When Kelly Storck first reached out to me, she shared that my Gender Now Coloring Book was the book she pictured herself with while writing her book and that many of the activities created inspiration for her book. She also indicated that it was the one book that she could find that provided active conversation starters. But the emails between her and her editor, that she accidentally shared with me, appear to indicate that she had no intention of reaching out to me or crediting her “inspiration” prior to finding out that I was releasing two new children’s books about gender.

The bulk of my Gender Now Books’ scholarship and fundamental frame is lifted and placed throughout The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids/ A Guide to Exploring Who You Are (Kelly Storck, New Harbinger Publications). It has a considerably different tone to any of Storck’s other exercises.

I asked Kelly and her press to please remove or significantly modify the exercises that replicated my work prior to publishing so that our books could stand separately. I wrote, “With 38 activities the exclusion of mine should make your original work stand out uniquely as your own.” Their response was to justify why they were making minimal changes and taking my work without credit. Kelly and her press’s responses were polite, but perfunctory.

“The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids” Plagiarism:
  1. “Gender in the Animal World” Activity (Nature): All of the examples used are similar to ones in Gender Now: fish, seahorses, frogs, lizards and butterflies
  2. “Gender Around the World” Activity (Global Cultures): 4 out of 5 examples are the same to those in Gender Now: Hijras, Two Spirits, Bugis and Fa’afafine
  3. “Gender Through History” Activity (History): 3 out of 6 examples are the same to those in Gender Now: Joan of Arc, Billy Tipton and Sylvia Rivera
  4. Storck doesn’t cite any research or resources for the Nature, Global Culture or History sections
  5. The 3 section format of Nature, Global Cultures and History is the same framework I presented in my Gender Spectrum presentations
  6. 18 out of 19 illustrations in the book are connected to my Gender Now work with over a quarter having significant similarities.
  7. Prior to minimal changes, Building Your Own Style was two separate exercises, Hair is Hair and Clothes are Clothes which were taken from Gender Now’s Which Outfit? and Which Hairdo?
  8. Prior to minimal changes, My Birth Certificate was “May I See Your ID Please?” which was taken from Gender Now’s ID Card
    – Given these numerous similarities, it also calls into question:
  9. We Can’t Always See What’s on the Inside which has a great resemblance to What No One Can See Self-Portrait I helped create for Gender Spectrum K-2 curriculum
  10. Self-Portrait which has a great resemblance to Portrait on Stage in Gender Now and U-niquely You Self-Portrait I helped create for Gender Spectrum K-2 curriculum

By their own admission, a significant portion of Kelly Storck’s book was not original work that just happened to be similar. Despite what the press would like to imagine, it cannot be treated the same as original work. The fundamental frame and format was consciously plagiarized. The most disconcerting piece is that it was not in part, but all of the fundamentals of my gender work while never offering to acknowledge or uplift Gender Now as the source in any way.

The only acknowledgement in the book is to Diane Ehrensaft who wrote the introduction, and is given credit for her “Apples and Oranges” Exercise.


There’s much more I could share about both of these books regarding the distortion of my work in a Western frame but I’ve focused on the plagiarism to begin. Bringing awareness to these two books is important, but it’s also about the larger conversations regarding plagiarism, power dynamics, inclusion, and first/own voice for the LGBTQI2S+ community, especially Indigenous and POC.

Read (or return to) the blog post for more about the context of the plagiarism.