Dolls for Transgender Children

All children need to play with dolls, no matter their gender identification.

For the youngest children, dolls provide cuddle and comfort. For toddlers, dolls make great ‘security objects’ — that touch of the familiar that they can carry with them as they start to explore the world around them.

But most importantly, dolls help children to learn to nurture; they become your child’s own ‘children’ to love and to care for. It’s one of the first skills a child learns.

Make no mistake — the best mothers and fathers 20 years from now, are the ones learning how to nurture today… by way of doll play.

This is as true for little girls as it is for little boys. Neither nurture nor love is dependent on a child’s ‘gender.’

Fritzi Doll

Fritzi, a gender neutral doll for boys, girls and transgender children.

This is also true for transgender children. Sometimes, God puts the mind and the soul of one gender into the body of the other. Sometimes it is temporary, and you get the ‘tomboy’ girls and the ‘princess’ boys. Sometimes it is permanent and in adulthood they will undertake the transition. But regardless of any label, children need dolls to love and nurture.

Recently we started carrying a new kind of doll. A gender neutral doll. Neither ‘pink aisle’ nor ‘blue aisle,’ Fritzi is the perfect doll for boys, girls, tomboys, princesses, gay, lesbian, or transgender. Whichever gender role that child needs their doll to fill, Fritzi can be that doll. The child can project a gender onto the doll, or leave it ambiguous, or even change it from one to the other as he or she sees fit. The name is gender-neutral, the clothes are gender-neutral, the doll is gender-neutral. Imagination is the key determiner.

Unfortunately, dolls need to be placed in one aisle or another in the toy store. But for the parents who are willing to think outside of the ‘pink aisle is where you find dolls’ mindset, we are happy to present an alternative. A doll that any child can identify as being of the ‘right’ gender.

Is playing with dolls gender based?

In the toy industry these days, one of the ‘industry trends’ popular in the trade press and under a lot of mommy-blogger discussion, is the topic of gender and toys. Toys – the argument goes – should not be gender specific, nor should the packaging, or the marketing or the store aisles themselves.

In England, Toys R Us and Harrod’s both did away with gender segmentation of the toy aisles. And many manufacturers are now making toys that used to be considered ‘boy’s toys,’ like building sets or engineering sets, for girls. ‘Lego Friends’ and ‘GoldieBlox’ are two examples.

So the trend seems to be… as an industry… that it’s been agreed that we shouldn’t make toys specifically for one gender or the other. But when it comes to dolls, I disagree.

The Pattycake Doll Company sells thousands of Boy’s Dolls and Boy Dolls every year. But we sell many more thousands of Girl’s Dolls and Dolls for Girls each year. And we sell thousands of gender neutral soft plush character dolls like Sesame Street, Disney and Dr Seuss to both boys and girls.

Baby Boy Doll

Baby Boy Doll

There is no question that boys play with dolls, and sleep with Teddy Bears. But Boys generally don’t play with the same dolls as girls. Most boys prefer boy or gender neutral dolls. Boys will play with their sister’s dolls if that’s all there is. But boys do not generally want or ask for a baby girl doll to play with. 

Bottom line? Industry trend or not, ‘playing with dolls’ is not gender based. Both sexes play with dolls. Period.

But I don’t think we’ll ever see Barbies marketed to boys. Because the two sexes definitely have their preferences of which kinds of dolls they prefer to play with, and those preferences are gender based.

Boy Dolls vs. Dolls for Boys

A Boy's Doll

Here is a non-gendered ‘Boy Doll,’ with short hair and dressed in a baseball uniform.

We get this asked a lot: “Why does The Pattycake Doll Company differentiate between Boy Dolls and Dolls for Boys?”

Like… “What’s the difference?”

The practical answer is: ” There is none.”

To clarify: there are definitely ‘Boy Dolls.’ There are non-gendered dolls that are dressed as boys, (non-gendered meaning that the body is basically a cloth bag with stuffing or smooth plastic) and there are anatomically correct dolls formed like boys.

But there is no such thing as ‘dolls for boys.’ All dolls can be ‘dolls for boys.’ Boys will nurture a non-gendered doll, a Teddy Bear, or a baby girl doll just as readily as they will nurture a ‘boy doll.’

So why do we do it?

Because it’s a ‘search term.’ It is the words that people have in their minds when they go looking on the internet for a doll for a boy.

Here’s an example: Little Johnny is three years old, and his mother and father have just brought home a new baby. Johnny is fascinated by that baby… he wants to help feed it and bathe it and touch it and watch it sleep. He loves his new baby with all of his heart. But Mommy and Daddy are not quite ready for his ‘help!’ So someone gets the idea to give Johnny his own baby to take care of. So they go to Google or Amazon or Walmart.com and they type in the words: “Dolls for Boys.”

As an e-commerce store, we need to help potential customers find our store’s selection, so we use that search term too.

Looking for ‘Boy Dolls?’ We have that. Looking for ‘Dolls for Boys?’ We have those too!

From failure to success

Ling An Asian Cloth Doll for Children

The doll that started our business

Our doll business – The Pattycake Doll Company – was an accident. We started as, (and still are) a Graphic Arts Studio!

In 2002, the dot.com crash hurt our ability to give as generously to charity as we liked, and we were looking for a new ’stream of income.’  We decided to try e-commerce and launched HappyBabyBasket.com which featured themed baby baskets.

We had an Irish themed basket with a stuffed Irish Setter with a four leaf clover hanging from it’s mouth; a Jewish themed basket with a Blue Teddy Bear in a kippa and the Star of David embroidered on its paw, and a basket for a newly adopted child with Ling, (shown above, wasn’t she cute?) etc. We failed to sell a single basket. In fact, you couldn’t even find use in the search results we were so far down!

After a year and a half, we decided eCommerce wasn’t in the cards and decided to shut the site down. But since everything was already paid for, and we had six more months in our contract, we decided to take some of the items out of the baskets and sell them individually; to see if maybe we could recoup some of our inventory expenses at least.

Silver piggy banks, cute little custom tee shirts, etc. Now we had slowly been learning more about e-commerce, and we must have done something right, because all of a sudden our Asian dolls were selling. ( Not for a lot mind you, maybe $12.95?… I don’t remember anymore).

Well, one of my favorite phrases is “you don’t learn a heck of a lot from thesecond kick of the mule!” and that was the case here as well. After a year and a half, something had happened, but what? So we called a few of the customers who had purchased with…”hi, this is the Happy Baby Basket customer service follow up call. Thank you for your purchase… did everything go OK… and by the way, why did you buy that doll?”

And we kept hearing the same thing: ” We just came back from China with a newly adopted little girl, and we went into our local stores, and we couldn’t find Asian faced dolls. So we went online and found you!”

We had found a niche market. Underserved customers with a need. ant that was the start of The Pattycake Doll Co., and PattycakeDoll.com selling Asian Baby Dolls, Dolls for Black ChildrenDolls for Boys and Boys Dolls, and contributing thousands of dollars every year to children’s charities.