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Meet Sam. Sam is just a kid who wants to help you understand who he is. And he happens to be transgender.

The trans boy is actually a brand-new toy in development, and his creators hope he explains what it means to be transgender to children. Made up of a series of stacking dolls, each layer of the toy represents a stage of gender questioning and exploring. The Russian nesting dolls also come with an e-book to help teachers and guardians talk about gender diversity with their children and students.

Sam was created by Gender Creative Kids Canada, a nonprofit transgender support organization for children, parents, and families in Montreal. The nonprofit calls Sam “the world’s first educational transgender toy,” and is currently running a Kickstarter to fund production.

“Awareness of variations in gender identity is increasing in many countries, but there are still very few tools available that allow parents or teachers to talk to young children about this sensitive, complex subject,” the project’s Kickstarter page says. “Sam helps children empathize with the emotional challenges of being born a transgender or gender-diverse person.”

An animated film to promote the doll, called Sam’s Story, has gone viral on Facebook, gaining more than 1 million views in just two weeks.

Each doll in the nesting set represents a key step some transgender and gender-nonconforming people experience in terms of their identity, from questioning to exploration to isolation.

The final piece inside every set of Sam nesting dolls is a heart representing one’s true self, showing kids that appearances may change, but who a person is stays the same.

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Gender Creative Kids Canada says Sam was especially designed for transgender youth, giving crucial representation to trans people in toys. But the nonprofit also hopes the doll will help start conversations about gender diversity with all children, and foster more acceptance and understanding of transgender people through play.

Transgender children and their families were consulted throughout the project, giving feedback on the concept and helping to shape Sam’s story. Gender Creative Kids Canada says the children’s experiences were an essential starting point for Sam’s creation.

“The very first step of the project was to get three transgender children and their families together with the team so that those who are transgender could really explain what it’s like for them,” Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, vice president of Gender Creative Kids Canada, tells Mashable. “Only after this did the team of designers and creators go on to develop their ideas.”

The nonprofit is sure to clarify that there isn’t a single “transgender” story. The Sam toy, however, does risk telling a single narrative to coming out as trans — one that involves heavy emotions like self-doubt and isolation. While feeling like this are a risk in a society that doesn’t accept transgender people, they aren’t an inevitability trans children should be taught to expect.

In the viral short film explaining the toy’s backstory, we’re introduced to a child named Sam, along with Sam’s twin brother. As they grow older, Sam begins to question the idea of gender, experiencing the very same emotions represented in the toy. At the end of the film, when Sam is finally accepted and comes into his true gender identity, it’s realized that his twin brother was Sam’s inner self all along.

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The short film was funded by TD Bank and the government of Quebec, and will be used as a standalone education piece in Quebec and Ontario schools.

Gender Creative Kids Canada hopes to raise $103,776 USD ($137,500 Canadian) on Kickstarter to fund prototype creation, manufacturing, and shipment of more than 1,500 toys to families, nonprofits, and teachers in Canada. Your pledge of $75 helps fund these efforts, and also gets you your own Sam doll.

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One Comment

  1. Filiberto Toelle

    September 7, 2017 at 9:02 am

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