Let’s get one thing clear (I was going to say ‘straight’…oh, the irony): Homosexual, Transgender and Transvestite are not the same thing. One, two or all can be present in the same person, but in and of themselves, they are generally exclusive in terms of definition. You’d be surprised how many people out there don’t know this. I personally hate labels, because I am a human being, a man, and a doll collector. By calling me a ‘gay’ man you’ve only added an adjective to describe the type of sexual preference I enjoy in my own privacy and behind closed doors. One is not ‘homosexual’ or ‘heterosexual’ – it merely defines your sexual preference. Are we all on the same page? Good…let’s move on…


Being fabulous doesn’t hurt…

NOTE: In case you found this article by googling anything other than ‘tommydoll’ – it is written by an adult for an adult audience – so don’t you dare chastise me for it being visible to your kid who has probably already found your porn stash along with your old bong.


‘Transgender’ defines a human being (see – there’s that real defining term, ‘human’) who was born as one gender (or both genders – though I don’t want to complicate this – let’s just keep it simple for this essay, please), but with the genetic disposition/identification towards another gender. There’s been plenty written on this…so feel free to follow the provided links to understand the subtleties and ambiguities of sexual assignment. Still with me? Good…


Caitlyn Jenner is a transgender woman.

Transvestites enjoy wear the clothing of the opposite sex. This human being may not be homosexual and/or transgender – they just like wearing the clothing. Again, plenty of info out there on this subject, too…


With all the various labels we have in the LGBTQ community, we are strongly subdivided and begging for unity – this certainly doesn’t help the stupid people who think bathroom usage is going to play a direct role in child abuse – unfortunately, there will always be such horrific exceptions – but it does NOT define the norm, as hysterics (largely in the South and MidWest United States) would have you believe.


So what does it all have to do with dolls? Well…there’s this:


Being Jazz cover photo copyright © 2016 by TLC/Mark DeLong; Doll Image © 2017 Tonner Doll Company, Inc.

In a world where almost all toy dolls designed for children are genderless (that is lacking in specific genitalia which tends to play a role in gender assignment), why would we need a doll manufacturer to tell us that a doll is ‘transgender’? Quoting from Jazz Jennings, herself: “…the doll is considered to be the first “transgender” doll because it’s based on an individual who is trans. Of course it is still just a regular girl doll because that’s exactly what I am: a regular girl…


Why does this empower parents to place the doll in their transgendered child’s hands and say, “here honey…this doll is transgendered – just like you!” Have you fucking lost your minds? What happens when little Ginny brings home her friend’s doll and says, “wait a minute, Mom…my doll is just like Veronica’s – and besides – this isn’t American Girl like I asked for.” Hope you hopeful parents who need that permission to call a genderless toy ‘transgender’ have a well-planned out speech and loads of cash set aside for some serious therapy just in case.


Don’t get me wrong…I get it…I do understand. But this is so blatantly a publicity-seeking stunt to promote a doll that is not likely to sell well (would it have killed the sculptor to include a smile of which Jazz is so frequently sporting?), a book written by Jazz that will probably sell well, and a partner TLC Series that puts Jazz Jennings out there even more to promote a very worthy message to children who can learn from her experience.


I smile…

It’s not the first time such a stunt has happened…and it won’t be the last. But one thing I tend to draw the line on: blatant use of publicity stunts thinly veiled as ‘sending an important message’, whether it be the Lammily doll that just rode on the heels of Barbie anyway (we don’t really hear much from ol’ Lamm these days, now do we?) – when the real intent is only to make a buck. Mattel kinda flushed Lammily pretty nicely with its multiple versions of different body types, but in the end people typically don’t want reality in their play – they want fantasy – an idealone that is as individual to each human being as a fingerprint. Granted, we were taught to know these norms – they didn’t come to us genetically; and a little re-teaching isn’t a bad thing – but really, I like my imagination just fine, and I certainly don’t need anyone fucking with it.


I like how this article regarding the Jazz Jennings doll inserted this little gem (not included in the Tonner press release): “The Jazz Jennings doll comes 40 years after the release of the “Gay Bob” doll, widely thought to be the first doll based on a gay character.” What in Gay Hell does the Gay Bob doll (sold as a novelty to adults) have to do with a trans toy doll for children? CBS isn’t the only outlet that picked-up on this…which makes me wonder where it originated…and more importantly: Why?


ABC, FOX and DailyMail all ran this, too…amongst many others. Does anyone remember Mattel’s Earring Magic Ken (OK, he wasn’t officially ‘gay’)? By the way, Press – if you want brilliantly conceived and executed dolls that vividly build on a group of young gay characters – try Joey Versaw’s First Love Dolls – now those are wonderfully realized with storylines, characters, colors and positive messages – a bit on the pricey side for kids, but God speed if he ever moves them into the plastic world.


First Love by Joey Versaw (Image: Sharon Wright)

Sex and dolls don’t mix…so it should come as little surprise how I feel about the Jazz Jennings doll. ‘Transgender’ doesn’t specifically include ‘sex’ – it’s a gender thing. Tonner isn’t doing anything new trying to grab bigtime ToyFair attention being a very small company trying to compete with the big companies. ToyFair is a very expensive show to attend, even for large businesses. It’s not really the type of show that Tonner hopes to generate sales – it’s more of a publicity-seeking venue, building name brand recognition. It connects them to other companies that may have licensing opportunities, manufacturing abilities, or partnering possibilities. It’s pretty certain Jazz Jennings will get them that attention – but the big question will be what will they do with it? My guess is probably launching Phyn and Arrow, and fading into the collectible doll graveyard for good. I do hope I am wrong, though – Robert Tonner stands as one of the most prolific and imaginative doll makers ever, and it’s sad to see all of that go away.


UPDATE: Well, it would turn out Tonner’s big publicity stunt just got erased by American Girl/Mattel with this. Sorry, Robert…gender just ain’t doing you any favors. But it’s OK…Logan won’t have any genitalia either...


(American Girl)


17 Comments on “Trans-Action

  1. Oh my word. So it’s not a great doll with a fantastic sculpt and great clothes he needs now, it’s a publicity stunt? This just makes me so sad. Every crazy decision he makes just gets more and more wrong. 😢

  2. Trying to scent the new mood. Being the first. That’s all…

    Idea seems kinda useless to me too for a doll, but hey, dolls can be anything, and maybe that’s the point…As long as they don’t see it as a reason to market ugly or plain (Lammily) and call it fabulous, I don’t really care. (Keep that L doll away from me—depressing it even sold to anyone, much less the, um, tasteless if enthusiastic among us.) Dolls are basically aspirational to me…Ugly or plain is not my “play” aspiration, now or back in the 60s…Gimme that TNT Sunset Strip Barbie and her crazy stockings and swinging earrings and teen girl dream Sharon Tate hair

  3. Thank you! I thought I was the only one baffled by the concept and the excitement over this doll. And FYI, Lammily is alive and well, they added a boy character who is surprisingly cute compared to the girls.

  4. Spot on analysis. While I applaud various doll companies’ efforts to point out the bleeding obvious, that everyone is human first and whatever the hell they want second, I cannot really get interested in those ‘reality’ dolls. But as you correctly say, each to their own. With regard to children, lots of kids don’t really care what the doll looks like or how it’s made, it is the role-playing, the practising to be adult, or the fun of imagining other realities that is the crucial bit. I remember being four (yes, hard to believe I know), and having forgotten to bring a doll away with me on a holiday I used a rum bottle with a pretend cork head as one – voila! I had a doll. Dolls for adults is a completely different thing, and it still annoys me that Mattel spoils a perfectly good ‘Made to Move’ body by printing those stupid undies onto it in plastic. Sorry, I digress, great article and thanks.

    • We’re all a bit desensitized by Caitlyn, Jazz and Chaz (remember him???) Time to let dolls be dolls, and let our kids’ imagination go where he/she wants. Yes, I hear you…BUT…we teach children to be us. Isn’t that special?

  5. I don’t like this new Orwell trend that tells kids how to play (buy a transgender doll is your trans, invest in your girl future like Mattel dad campaign) putting everyone in its own tiny case with no space to even think (by the way, don’t think you’ll be capable of rebellion). A kid must be able to play alone and invent its own story. I’m pretty disappointed by Tonner marketing plan, as we say in France this is “lèche-cul” (google it), I don’t like the outfit, her name is Jazz so you expect more that boring plain ivory. Where is the “audace”.

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