By Nik Shultz
So you might be wondering, Why dolls? But before I can answer that question I think I need to give a bit of backstory.
I never quite had the experience of “always knowing” I was transgender. I was a plenty girly child, and I liked girly toys. I had fairy princess dresses to play dress up, I had a toy tea set, I had a pink painted bedroom, I had baby dolls and stuffed animals, I had My Little Ponies and Littlest Pet Shops, and like many other little “girl,” I had Barbies.
Mostly when I was young I had princess Barbie dolls, although I remember having a Veterinary Barbie, and a couple of fancy holiday or birthday ones. For one birthday, an aunt gave me a Pink Ribbon collectable Barbie, which still to this day I have taken out of the box only twice.
One game I often played was a sort of fantasy The Bachelor. I had one Ken doll, who came with two outfits, so he could be both of the love interests from Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper. He was a prince, and one of my holiday Barbies was a widowed queen, who wished to find a bride for her son. So all the other Barbie dolls had to compete to marry the prince. An interesting game for a child who would grow up to be very feminist and Very Not Straight. And something that I’ve felt very embarrassed by to be completely honest.
I grew up in a progressive household; my uncle is gay and had been accepted and supported by my parents long before I was around. But I wasn’t really aware of this until it was explained to me later on. My parents perhaps thought that not explaining the existence of non-hetero-romantic relationships would allow my brother and me to understand them as being as normal as straight relationships. But I never even knew they existed. All the media I saw at a young age told the same love story of Prince plus Princess equals happily ever.
I grew up and reached the age when playing with dolls was no longer the social norm, and eventually reached a phase of no longer wanting to care about dolls myself. But now I’ve reached the phase of realizing “Hey wait a second, I’m an adult. I can like whatever I want!” and started exploring the community of adult Barbie collectors.
Partially, this current obsession was brought on by the famous drag queen Trixie Mattel, who sometimes posts videos on her YouTube channel about her doll collection, and the history and psychology behind mass produced dolls. Partially it was brought on by the fact that some cool things having happened in recent years in the doll world, representation wise. For the first time I can fully appreciate the complexities of the industry and culture around children’s toys. And I hope as I write more, you’ll follow along and find it fascinating too.