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Transgender Barbie: A Sign of America’s Culture Change, With No End in Sight

A Hollywood star now has “her” very own Barbie. On Wednesday’s TODAY show on NBC, the morning TV staple featured Laverne Cox, the transgender mainstay in the Orange Is the New Black Netflix series. Cox was all dressed up and looked gorgeous, which could be coincidental. According to Today.com, for her 50th birthday celebration in May, the Emmy award-winning actor as well as LGBTQ+ activist was to be presented with a Tribute Collection Barbie. The doll is dressed in a red ball gown and an elegant silver bodysuit that are accompanied by accessories, such as silver earrings and high-heeled boots.

TODAY Parents joined in the event. “It's been a dream for years to work with Barbie, to create my own doll,” Cox declared in a press release shared with TODAY Parents. “I can't wait for fans to find my doll on shelves and have the opportunity to add a Barbie doll modeled after a transgender person to their collection.”

In the live broadcast, Laverne spoke about the subject of politics: “[Mattel has] this incredible Barbie tribute series with incredible people like (filmmaker) Ava DuVernay, and (singer) Brandy, etc. And I’m the latest person to be so honored… I love [the doll], and I had so much fun with everyone at Mattel designing her, but I think, this year particularly, when over 250 pieces of anti-transgender legislation have been introduced in state legislatures all over the country, targeting transgender children, LGBTQ youth, that I hope that all the kids who are feeling stigmatized when their healthcare’s being jeopardized, their ability to play in sports, I hope they can see this Barbie and have a sense of hope and possibility… Because representation matters.”

It’s apparent that people who identify as something different than their birth sex are a “new social reality.” The toy industry specifically has definitely seen a change: “Mattel Eyes a Barbie Gay Wedding Playset,” “Mattel Introduces a Gender Fluid Doll Playset for Children—to ‘Encourage People to Think More Broadly,'” “LEGO Announces Its Gender-Neutral Playset with the Black Drag Queen,” “Hasbro Announces Its New Gender Neutral Mr. Potato Head.”

The fun-filled ways of the past: “Barbie Announces Its New Politically Active Doll and All-Female Staff.” Don't confuse the kids: “LEGO Requests All Marketing for Its Fire and Police Sets to Be Removed.”

It's astonishing how quickly the world of cultural change has occurred. A few years ago, the word “transgender” occupied no place in the American dictionary. Just a decade ago, certainly, the majority of Americans would never have imagined that our current cultural trends were in the cards. And it’s likely that the shift isn't finished.

This month, the satirical site, the Babylon Bee, published a related piece entitled “Mattel Unveils New Pregnant Ken Doll.” It could be a sign of the times.

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