Find me a queer person who didn't spend their childhood making two Ken dolls or two Barbies play house and I'll have some serious questions for them. Some of us made do with G.I. Joes or pink and yellow Power Rangers action figures, but of all the places to look for queer representation, children's toys have never been high on the list.
When Matt Jacobi and Nick Caprio were brainstorming birthday present ideas for their eight-year-old niece Natalie, they decided to get her something connected to their upcoming wedding, for which Natalie and her sister Coco, four, will be flower girls. They scoured Target and Walmart for options, but came up short until they spotted a Barbie wedding set that was almost perfect: it had two flowers girls, a cake, a groom...and a bride.
"We thought, why don't we customize it and do our own thing," Jacobi tells OUT. So they bought another Ken doll in a tuxedo and positioned him in the wedding set in place of the Barbie bride.
Natalie's reaction was "priceless," says Jacobi. "She opened it up and said 'it looks just like you guys, I love it!"
While Natalie was happy, her uncles were disappointed that they had to come up with their own version of the gift they wanted to give th Natalie. So Jacobi took to Instagram, tagging Mattel in a post of their homemade set.
"We had a difficult time finding a same sex wedding set to give to my niece for her 8th birthday. [She] and her little sister are flower girls in our upcoming May wedding. We thought it would be special to give her something with a little meaning behind it. What a bummer you don't make one with two grooms. Anyway, we had to get creative and make a couple purchases. I hope our custom gift inspires you to make a #GayWedding set."
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BrJgs6yA6C7/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_medium=loading expand=1 site_id=25879314]
The post quickly went viral, and Mattel got in touch with the couple. "It was a beautiful email, they were super responsive," says Jacobi, who is scheduled to meet with Mattel's design team after the holidays.
"I'd like them to create a same sex wedding set to have available for families of all kinds, and create something that's missing in the marketplace," Jacobi explains. "It's about time that mattel connects with what's happening in our culture and what's happening in the world."
For some, children's toys might seem like a strange place to stage a battle for queer representation, but the power of children walking into any Target or Walmart in America and seeing positive representations of queer families cannot be ignored. Children are born innocent and taught bigotry, and exposing kids across the country to same-sex couples could have an undeniable impact on the culture.
"My nieces only knows that only Uncle Matt loves Uncle Nick and Uncle Nick loves Uncle Matt," says Jacobi. "Kids are taught to hate, they're taught to have negative feeling about those who don't fit the social norm. It's time that we bring positive examples into the commercial market...Toys are tools for teaching."
And an extra bonus, says Jacobi, is the lifetime supply of brownie points these guncles stand to gain for bringing their neices to Barbie central: "Can you imagine?"