‘Transgender doll’ or ‘drag Barbie’? We’ll take both

James Patrick Carraghan

James Patrick Carraghan is an award-winning activist, writer, librarian and student at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. He spends his free time gardening, hording books and flirting. You can follow him on tumblr at http://thelibrarynevercloses.tumblr.com/

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This holiday season, a new doll has been taking the internet by storm (sort of). Unlike most other dolls that pop up this time of year, the doll is causing controversy not because of its cost, but because the allegedly counterfeit ‘Fashion Princess’ doll appears to be either transgender or intersex.

An Argentinian mother first noticed what appears to be a plastic penis under the doll’s skirt while her three year-old played with the doll. The mother later posted pictures of the doll (nicknamed ‘muñeca trans’ or ‘trans doll’) on her Facebook page, starting the controversy. Some parents are concerned that seeing a female doll with male genitalia could influence their children’s gender identity.

There could be a gap in the market for the doll, however, as an earlier ‘normal Barbie’, designed to look more like a realistic woman, was well received by children.

It is not yet known whether the inclusion of genitals on the doll was part of the design. The doll was bought in a mayorista (wholesaler) in the ‘seedy’ area of Once, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One Cosmopolitan reader, however, claims the shop is a known retailer of counterfeit toys, and that the ‘penis’ is likely a plastic sprue left intact after the moulding process. As of publication, we are unsure if the plastic appendage appears on all versions of the doll or if this doll is unique.

Speaking to The Daily Mail, child psychologist Ricardo Rodulfo said, ‘It doesn’t matter to a child whether their toy has male genitalia or not. The idea causes more disturbance among adults.’

A drag queen Barbie?

Although this is the first ‘transgender’ doll we’ve seen, there has been at least one unofficial drag queen Barbie. The Blonds Blond Diamond Barbie Doll (priced at $125) is modelled after drag artist Phillipe Blond.

trans barbie 4

Cathy Cline from Mattel US told the New York Times in 2012,One of the great things about Barbie is that she continues to push the envelope. Barbie doesn’t worry about what other people think.’

The Blonds also designed a second Barbie in their series, which looks less like Phillipe but is modelled after LGBT+ icon Kylie Minogue: The Blonds Blond Gold Barbie Doll, which is still available (down from $150 t0 $119.99).

trans barbie 2

Kylie+Monique+in+Blonds+Gold+Corset+IIHIH

In 2006, ABC reported that the CWA, a Christian conservative group, also slammed Barbie’s makers Mattel for offering a third gender option (‘I Don’t Know’) for children who visit barbie.com. Later, Mattel said this was an error and the option should have been ‘I Don’t Want to Say’.

Fans of Barbie have made their own trans* dolls over the years – such as this transgender doll called Trigger and these custom-made transgender dolls on Pinterest.

Facebook also has a fan page dedicated to ‘Transgender Barbie Acasia‘, although this is not a doll available in shops.

Additional reporting by Adam Lowe.

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