Art doll

Mattel designs the first transgender Barbie doll after Laverne Cox

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Emmy winner, actress and LGBTQ rights activist Laverne Cox has become the first transgender person to have a Barbie doll designed, at a time when advocates warn that transgender rights are under legislative attack in the United States and abroad.

Cox noted the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community — especially for transgender youth — when promoting the doll on NBC’s “Today” show this week. “I hope that all children who feel stigmatized when their health care is threatened, including the ability to play sport [is curtailed]I hope they can see this Barbie and feel a sense of hope and possibility,” she said.

GOP lawmakers have introduced nearly 200 state bills this year that seek to erode protections for transgender and gay youth or restrict discussion of LGBTQ topics in public schools, The Washington Post reported in March.

Cox, whose acting breakthrough came on “Orange Is the New Black,” is one of the most prominent transgender activists in the Western world, and her ability to go “beyond societal expectations to live more authentically” was hailed by Barbie maker Mattel. Cox has spoken publicly about her struggles as a black transgender woman and has supported other trans people fighting against restrictive laws.

New York-based Barbie enthusiast Tinu Naija said she ordered the Cox doll – who comes in a crimson corset worn over a dress and silver jumpsuit – once it was announced. She didn’t find the doll to look exactly like Cox, but called the symbolism “monumental”.

“The inclusion of a transgender personality for children and adult doll collectors is groundbreaking,” Naija said in an interview. “It’s bigger than even Laverne Cox herself. It would reverberate for many generations to come.

The Barbie Cox is currently one of the best-selling dolls on Amazon. (The Post is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.)

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In recent years, states with Republican-majority legislatures and GOP governors have sought to restrict transgender rights. A record number of such bills were introduced in 2021, according to Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group.

States such as Caroline from the south, South Dakota, and Arizona have laws that prohibit transgender girls and women from competing on many women’s sports teams. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (right) signed a bill this week that requires public school students to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates.

Alabama has attempted to make gender-affirming care a felony, though a federal judge quickly blocked the move this month. The Texas Supreme Court recently issued a nuanced ruling on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive to child welfare workers to investigate gender-affirming care for minors as “child abuse.”

Proponents have criticized these laws for targeting an already marginalized group. Utah Governor Spencer Cox (right) vetoed a transgender athlete bill this year, citing the mental health impacts it could have on young people in the state.

More people in the United States identify as transgender and non-binary, advocates say, but a 2021 Pew Research Center survey indicated strong partisan divisions over whether greater societal acceptance of transgender people was a positive development.

The battle for transgender rights has also spilled over to Australia, where Conservative parliamentary candidate Katherine Deves was defeated over the weekend. Her campaign was closely associated with the anti-transgender remarks she made, including comparing the sex reassignment procedure to mutilation. His loss amounted to “a stunning rebuke of divisive politics” among the public, Equality Australia said.