I chopped off the Barbies’ hair so they had spikey, little proto-dyke ‘dos, donned them in Ken’s clothes to butch them up and paired two Barbies together as a couple, replete with a Mattel child doll as their kin. Ken was left off in the distance, exposed to the elements sans attire and relegated to tasks like mowing the lawn or watching the garage for signs of unlawful entry.
I didn’t yet know I was queer, nor did I have the words to connect to why I was different, or why I liked masculine Barbie so much better than feminine Barbie, but I was nonetheless able to express my future self through play.
Despite my attempts to shoehorn intensely unrealistic dolls to mold the role I more wanted them to play, I eventually realized that dolls were designed for girly girls and not for me. I was too butch, too fat, too brunette, too queer for Barbie. As I grew, I also realized that girls were assigned other gender roles, some of which I would be forced to contend with — being talked over in meetings by men, being treated as a second-class citizen for being LGBTQ+, being made to feel like I didn’t deserve the nice things in life. I gave up buying or playing with dolls from that time on.
The Cox doll stands tall and proud and dons a “triple-threat original design,” featuring a “deep red tulle gown gracefully draped over a dazzling, silver metallic bodysuit.” Her hair is described as being “swept into glamorous Hollywood waves.”
The world may be a dumpster fire, but the Laverne Cox Barbie doll gives me hope. Some little kid, maybe not unlike me 25 years ago, may happen upon the doll in the toy store or online and feel seen. They may be able for the first time to feel connected to something outside of themselves — the beginning stirrings of a sense of community, of safety, of affirmation.
Tears streamed down my face as I ordered my own Laverne Cox Barbie online.
It wasn’t just that I hadn’t felt a connection to a doll in 25 years.
To see how far she’s come and how society has embraced a Black trans woman who is outspoken and political — and sanctioned by a toy company at that — is truly astounding. This milestone moment offers a small respite from the increasingly hostile environment in American public life for LGBTQ+ and particularly trans people.
The Barbie Tribute Collection Laverne Cox Doll sells for $40. But really, you can’t put a price tag on inclusive representation. If the Laverne Cox doll helps even one trans or queer child feel a little less alone, a little less scared, it will be worth it.
When we received the Laverne Cox Barbie, my five-year-old wanted to open the box and play — but I told him this was one doll I was keeping for myself. The neon Barbie house may be on fire, but the Laverne Cox doll, and with it, trans and queer people, will survive.