This article was written for Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31).

We honor our fallen trans siblings. We send strength and support to our living trans siblings and to those who love them.

See the Human Rights Commission’s list of our trans siblings who were murdered. At the time of publication, the 2023 list includes seven deaths. See the previous reports here: 2022202120202019 and 2018.

All photos belong to their respective owners. Please use the contact form for takedown requests.


The doll scene has always been dominated by dolls that look like biological women and girls, with Barbie, who strutted down the toy isle in 1959, being the most enduring and successful sixth-scale figure to date.

We didn’t see any successful men-based sixth-scale dolls until Ken (Barbie’s on-again-off-again boyfriend) was launched in 1961. And finally, in 1964, the uber-masculine GI Joes came out.

Out of the hundreds of cisgendered dolls in all colors, shapes, and sizes, we found only four trans dolls and action figures that have graced the world with their presence.

2022: Laverne Cox by Barbie

Mattel made headlines last year when the company released its first-ever Barbie made in the likeness of a transwoman. And the person Mattel chose? Laverne Cox.

She may not be my favorite trans actor (that distinction would go to the bad bitches of Pose: Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Hailie Sahar, and Angelica Ross, with Ross probably being my all-time winner), but no one can deny Cox’s trailblazing legacy.

Launched on May 25, 2022, the Laverne Cox Barbie doll is part of the Barbie Tribute Collection. She was designed by Carlyle Nuera, Lead Designer for Barbie Signature at Mattel, and has an Articulated Superhero body type (the same body type Mattel uses for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman).

I don’t have a Laverne Cox Barbie Doll because I no longer collect Barbies (I only have Diana, Hippolyta, and Antiope from the first Wonder Woman movie), so I’ve only seen promotional images and videos both from Mattel and fans. I have to say, I’m not impressed with the headsculpt. It’s probably the lipstick?

But again, kudos to Mattel and Ms. Cox. It’s such a huge departure from the homophobic attitude Mattel displayed toward Earring Magic Ken back in the day.

However, the Laverne Cox Barbie wasn’t the first doll created based in the likeness of a trans person.

2017: Jazz Jennings by Tonner

Back in 2017, Jazz Jennings, a teenage trans activist, had her doll made by the Tonner Doll Company.

Compared to Barbie’s Laverne Cox, this doll didn’t seem to garner that much attention. As inspiring as Jennings is, she has less star power than Cox.

Mattel is also a bigger company than Tonner (with a bigger audience and a bigger marketing budget).

We also have to consider the difference in attitude toward and acknowledgment of trans people in 2017 versus in 2022 (and 2023). Whilst the more progressive side of the planet (and the US) has generally been more accepting, the conservative part has grown more and more hostile, especially toward transfolk, nonbinary people, and drag queens.

Jazz Jennings’ Tonner doll is gorgeous, but the emotionless facial expression looks jarring compared to the bubbly photos we see of her, especially the one on the packaging.

And like the Laverne Cox doll by Barbie, Tonner’s Jazz Jennings dolls uses a feminine-presenting body that isn’t anatomically correct.

In his interview with Forbes, Robert Tonner (the founder and CEO of the Tonner Doll Company) mentions a conversation he had with his trainer who asked him “What makes this a transgender doll if she has no parts?”

To which Tonner replied:

“… It’s about who [sic] it represents. It represents a person with an issue that — 20 years ago, you couldn’t have done it. Now it’s opening up conversations, and that’s what I like about it.”

Meanwhile, Jennings has an even better answer. In her Instagram post to celebrate the launch (see above), she writes:

“For those asking: 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!” (Emphasis mine.)

With Laverne Cox’s Barbie launch, Mattel was very careful to only say she was the first trans Barbie doll, not the first trans doll.

The official press release of Tonner’s Jazz Jennings doll doesn’t mention anything about her being the first trans doll, but maybe thanks in part to Jennings’ Instagram post above, the media has crowned her as such, as evident from the write-ups on Fortune, CNN, Seventeen, and Rolling Stone.

But she wasn’t.

2015: Sarina Valentina by Phicen/TBLeague

Two years before Tonner launched Jazz Jennings’ doll, Phicen/TBLeague released an action figure based on the likeness of an adult performer named Sarina Valentina. The body is feminine presenting with large breasts and an unremovable soft penis.

This is the official doll description I nicked from Ekia Hobbies:

Sarina Valentina is a transsexual adult star and model who represents the new generation of transsexual artist. With her breath taking [sic] looks and her alluring feminine voice, Sarina is one of the most beautiful adult stars of her kind.

The winner of the 6th annual Tranny awards for best solo actress, Sarina has become a beautiful addition to the adult world.

Classic Beauty Entertainment is proud to bring you the Sarina Valentina 1/6th scale action doll.

Authorized and approved by Sarina Valentina
Officially Authorized Likeness of Sarina Valentina

Outfit:

  • Fashionable bra & panty set
  • Black stockings
  • Pair of Shoes
  • 4 Posing Hands
  • Specialty Packaging
  • Figure Stand

Sarina Valentina action figure nude body photo was taken from Toy Anxiety.

So far, Sarina Valentina is the only trans body that Phicen/TBLeague has produced.

I tried contacting Valentina for this article (admittedly just a few days ago and again this morning on her Twitter, which is totally mea culpa). I’ve a few questions regarding this action figure and I wasn’t able to find the answers on the Internet. But she hasn’t responded to the interview requests.

And Phicen/TBLeague’s website is no help either. A “Sarina” search on the site yields nothing. The site lists the action figures produced by the company since 2013 (including the unreleased ones) but there’s no entry for the Sarina Valentina doll.

To be fair, there’s also no entry for M30, M31, and M33 bodies.

2006: Amanda Lepore by Jason Wu/Integrity Toys

However, the one that predates all of them by far is the iconic Ms. Lepore herself.

Embed from Getty Images

Back in 2006, Jason Wu of Integrity Toys created three Amanda Lepore dolls: Couture Baby (black dress), Trannytale (beige dress), and Look Better Naked (white set). Instead of rooted, glued, or sculpted hair, the dolls are bald and come with wigs. The head and body were made from RealSkin resin to mimic porcelain.

Amanda Lepore doll’s vagina photo was taken from Mandarake/Nakano Plastic.

The dolls were available only at JEFFREY New York and the net proceeds of the sales were donated to the Design Industry Foundation Fight AIDS (DIFFA) charity.

And it looks like the Amanda Lepore dolls are anatomically correct. However, since Lepore has done transgender vaginoplasty, the dolls have a sculpted vagina instead of a penis like the Sarina Valentina doll.

My Pussy is fierce.

The 18-inch Jazz Jenning’s Tonner was marketed to kids, while it seems Laverne Cox’s Barbie will most likely find herself in the hands of adult collectors. However, it’s clear that the Sarina Valentina and Amanda Lepore dolls are intended for adult doll collectors.

So, why the erasure?

I could be making a mountain out of a molehill here, but it’s unfortunate that not enough people know more about the Sarina Valentina and the Amanda Lepore dolls.

Granted, when the Lepore doll came out in 2006 and the Valentina action figure came out in 2015, even Barbie didn’t have as much clout as she does today. Integrity Toys was also years away from being an indie doll powerhouse with its Fashion Royalty line which would later include the RuPaul dolls and the Trixie Mattel doll.

Meanwhile, Phicen/TBLeague was a baby company in China trying to find its footing in the sixth-scale world while seemingly wanting to go to the 12-inch-sex-doll-adjacent-business direction. “Adjacent” because Phicen/TBLeague makes it clear that their seamless figures (including the M ones with the penis attachments) are “not designed to be a sex toy.” And true, the steel skeleton would make it difficult for penetration.

I don’t blame Cox for the erasure. Her doll wasn’t advertised as the world’s first trans doll. Whether or not she and Mattel think that title belongs to Lepore, Valentina, or Jennings is unknown.

I don’t blame Jennings either. She was seventeen when her doll came out and it’s possible she just wasn’t aware of the existence of the Lepore and Valentina dolls.

However, I do blame the journalists for not doing their due-diligence.

In their defense, I know that against Barbie (and even Tonner), Integrity Toys and Phicen/TBLeague are still considered niche. So, I suppose a journalist with a deadline might not have the time to research the Amanda Lepore/Sarina Valentina dolls.

What would’ve been unacceptable is if they had known but just didn’t want to put “Jazz Jennings” and “Sarina Valentina” or “Amanda Lepore” in the same article, because one is a teen activist, another is a porn star, and yet another was a former club kid who performs naked.

Plus, the marketing materials for both the Sarina Valentina and Amanda Lepore dolls use the word “tranny” and that’s a-whole-nother can of worms.

The mainstream world still makes fun of cosmetic surgery and vilifies the sex industry and its workers, especially trans performers. This is despite the fact that we see sex (and violence) everywhere and despite the fact that sexual release is a basic need of most animals.

Heck, even kid-friendly drag performances are being banned by extremists, so what chance does the sex industry have?

The trans and nonbinary communities are making strides while taking heat from all sides. As allies, it’s crucial that we do what we can to let our trans siblings speak their truth while we listen and amplify their voices. And yes, that includes our trans siblings who are sex workers.

2021/2023: Alejandra Luna by Integrity Toys (Honorable Mention)

Whilst the first four trans dolls are based on real people, this fifth one is a fictional character. First introduced in 2021, Alejandra Luna’s bio is as follows:

Rayna’s best “frenemy”, Latina billionaire heiress, and top model, Alejandra Luna! The first trans model of the NU. Face agency, Alejandra will be the new hit of your collection, setting trends like no other doll ever has before with her ultra-edgy, high-fashion attitude!

The 2023 Alejandra Luna has a new ensemble and is now on a waitlist.

I’m not a fan of Integrity Toys since their faces all look like Melania Trump’s but I applaud the company’s progressive and inclusive nature.

Let’s hope there will be more trans dolls in the future!

Dollsexposed showcases queer erotica, kink, fetish, and activism through twelve-inch doll photography.

Their adventures in the doll world began in 2011 before establishing a home on dollsexposed.com eleven years later.

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