An open book on gender identity


Photo Credit: Julia Rooney

Fabrikant had worked years on the book, going through different publishers, before the book was released in 2013.

by Julia Rooney, Managing Editor

Like one would search an algebra textbook to solve an equation, author Amy Fabrikant hunted for books on the transgender community to enrich her knowledge 17 years ago.

Fabrikant hoped to read up on people who are transgender and what it meant. One of her three children was ready to socially transition genders from identifying as a boy to a girl.

No such book was found.

“We needed [a book], so I made one. I wrote one,” said Fabrikant.

The night of Jan. 17, Fabrikant came to Glen Rock to read the book she had written on the subject of gender identity, When Kayla Was Kyle.

Influenced by her daughter’s experience and those she had heard from others, Fabrikant was able to write and publish the story of Kayla.

Photo Credit: Julia Rooney
Illustrations inside the book include a piece of work done by Kayla in second grade, when she went by the name, Kyle.

Her goal was to not only make people who are transgender feel included, but she also wanted to help the Northern New Jersey community better include all types of people.

Not all transgender people are accepted for being themselves. That was something Fabrikant learned the hard way while watching her child be isolated by not only peers, but teachers as well.

Starting when Kayla was just two years old, Fabrikant was told by teachers that seeking advice from therapists and specialists would help her and Kayla feel okay.

“I thought I was being a good mom. I thought I had to go fix it,” said Fabrikant. “I had listened to specialists and doctors and people who didn’t know us, people who didn’t know my daughter.”

Fabrikant’s true understanding of the LGBTQ+’s came from meeting families with children going through a similar struggle of acceptance as Kayla had been.

With the intention of continuing to inform schools on gender identity, Fabrikant now co-chairs the Northern New Jersey chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN). 

Photo Credit: Julia Rooney
At the back of the room, the GLSEN members set up a table of more information, with a chance to enter a raffle for an autographed book and tshirt.

Including co-chair Phil McCormick, the GLSEN board accompanied Fabrikant to the book reading and discussion.

After reading the story aloud, Fabrikant and McCormick led a talk in which attendees were free to share their take on the book and LGBTQ+ acceptance.

McCormick’s work as a high school history and psychology teacher made it easy for him to relate to teachers and parents on their experiences within schools.

“I’m grateful to be here and to be serving on this board,” McCormick said.

The GLSEN has been working with schools since 1990. Within the last three years, McCormick opened the chapter in North Jersey.

Visiting neighborhoods in their area, Fabrikant, McCormick and their team have been able to not only teach others about sexuality and gender, but also learn from group discussions.

“I’m very happy to say the community is growing in strength,” said Fabrikant.

Glen Rock High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance club was not formally made aware of the reading. Adviser to the GSA Ms. Nicole Rusin would have loved to be involved with the event. Rusin feels that Glen Rock’s high school community is extremely accepting, not viewing different sexuality or genders as different at all.

“Once LGBTQ is seen as normal, then that’s awesome,” said Rusin. “That’s my dream.”

Photo Credit: Julia Rooney
Attendees were given pins to promote acceptance.