We asked parents if they'd give their child a transgender doll
When transgender people first began to appear in the public eye, some just didn't get it. In 1692, Mary Henly was arrested for wearing men’s clothing because such behaviour was "seeming to confound the course of nature". In 1879, Joseph Lobdell (born as Lucy) was arrested and put in an insane asylum for living as a man. In fact, it wasn't until the 1930s that Lili Elbe underwent the first known gender reassignment surgery.
Today, transgender people are still sadly subject to intolerance but remain largely free to live life however they want. Furthermore, toy manufacturers have begun to produce transgender dolls. The first "transgender doll" came to public attention back in 2014, when a female fairy doll which appeared to have male genitalia hit the news after a shocked Argentinian mother discovered her child playing with it. It remains unknown whether this doll's "genitalia" was intentional on the manufacturer's part, but the toy sparked a discussion in society, particularly among parents.
Three years later, a doll based on transgender activist and YouTube personality Jazz Jennings who, born a boy, transitioned to living as a girl at the age of five, debuted at the New York Toy Fair. Then 16 years old, Jennings spoke out about the doll, which didn't have either type of genitalia at the time, stating: "Of course it is still just a regular girl doll because that's exactly what I am: a regular girl!" But the question is, do parents agree with her? And would they give their child a transgender doll? VT hit the streets of London to find out.
"Would the children understand what the doll was to begin with? Would the child understand? Because I think the child would see it as a doll. Those are my thoughts. Unless it's explained, and then the explanation would have to take quite an adult turn. The dolls are for quite youngish children and I think it would go over their heads, so it would be difficult to explain exactly to a young child. They're not dolls, they're for an older child. I wouldn't give it to my child. They don't even have the life skills to grasp other things. I'm not against transgender people, I just feel that there's an age that you can explain it. It's too early."
- Gerald, 58
"Absolutely, yes! I'm so on board with this! I'm a teacher, so I try to stay as woke as possible for the kids. There's just no point in trying to box people in, like 'oh you have a Barbie doll, oh you have a superhero'. Like what the hell? Do whatever you want. Might as well give them the option."
- Alyssa, 26
"I know it's not PC to say, but I don't really get the transgender thing. So, no. I would not give that to my child. I know I'll get a lot of flack for this, but if you were born as a boy, you're a boy. Act however you want in the body that's been given to you, but I don't get changing your body to be a certain gender."
- Tom, 81
"My youngest son played with dolls, I supposed they were all female dolls. I don't think anything else was available at the time. In principle, I'd have no problem at all, because I think young kids, if they're thinking about their gender, then that can't be a bad thing. You'd have to be a bit brave to choose that for your kid, but in principle, I think it's good because the earlier the kid thinks about their gender, the better."
- Bill, 47
"It would be confusing. I think you go have an operation done to change a certain look, you're already male or female, you're not born anatomically that way."
- Ebony, 43
"I'm transgender myself and I would not give the doll with the penis to my child. I think that children don't need to see that stuff yet, they're innocent. The fairy doll looks like it's for a really young child, like what? Three or four? They haven't developed yet, so they don't need to be thinking about that on their toys. Saying that, of course I want to encourage people to accept transgender people and I am fully one hundred per cent behind the Jazz Jennings doll. I'd buy that doll in a heartbeat, and I might."
- Harry, 26
"I don't see a problem with it. It might be difficult to explain to the kid but they have the right to know, because some people feel like that. They [transgender people] are human beings, like everyone else."
- Kasha, 26
"I think it would be more confusing. I don't know what the purpose would be. I don't think normalising transgender people is going to be done with a doll, it's going to be done with mentors and parenting. I don't think they're pretty. I don't think they're cute and cuddly. I never gave my kids a doll so they can help identify what their sexual identity is. It's more about imagination and dressing. For girls, it's about dressing the doll for clothes, you're not interested in the anatomy. That's not their first concern and I don't want that forced upon them, unless they ask. They're not developed yet anatomically and their mind is not developed yet, so all in good time."
- Robin, 46
"Nope, I wouldn't give it to my kid. It's a boy no matter what anyone says, born a boy, always gonna be a boy"
- Valerie, 34
"I think it's a great idea. Who cares whether the doll has genitalia or not? Children are just going to look at it as a doll, they're not going to sexualise it. And if they play with transgender dolls, when they see a transgender person in real life, they're just going to think that's normal, which is was it's all about. We need to push for acceptance, not discrimination."
- Emma, 32
"I would give my child the Jazz Jennings doll, but certainly not the doll with the penis. No other children's toys have intimate parts, why should this one?"
- Antonio, 29
"It's an awesome idea. Definitely needed. Why not diversify how children grow up with the world, if that's really the world around them? Bring up the idea that it's okay to be whoever you want to be from an early age, because it is."
- Felicity, 25
So, there you have it. The question of whether parents would give their children a transgender doll was incredibly divisive among the people of London and it seems that no two people really had exactly the same point of view. All we know is that, with Playboy announcing their first ever transgender playmate, and transgender men giving birth to gender-neutral children, the future looks bright for the LGBTQ community.
Featured illustration by Egarcigu