Change the World

Where is Our Kids' Choice in Toys?

The following post was written by Kristen Johnson, the co-founder and owner of “Boy Story,” a young company devoted to producing diverse dolls for all kids. We at Gays With Kids think that her company and its products are of particular interest to gay dads and their kids. 


How often do we wish that the toys available to our kids were as diverse as the world we encounter?  I know I wish it a lot.

As gay dads, you are raising your kids in a diverse environment. Many of you have kids who are a different color from you. Or a different gender. And certainly your kids all have different and diverse interests.  You teach your kids that they are loved no matter what, that different is good, and that they are free to choose whatever life path they wish.

Walk into most toy stores today and that message is destroyed in an instant.  Diversity just went out the window. Cars are in the blue aisle; dolls are in the pink aisle. Oh, and there areblue and pink aisles.

I am not a gay dad. I’m a straight, white mom of two boys, 3 years and 18 months old. But like you, I want my children to know they have a choice in life. They can choose who to play with, what to play with, and how to play. They can choose who to love. This is a lesson that we all teach our children.

When I went to buy my older son a doll, while I was pregnant with my second son, I was struck with the alarming realization that the toy industry has stifled our children’s choice in play. How easy a search, I naively thought as I hopped on Amazon to order a boy doll. I was going to buy my son a little “person” to play with and care for while I took care of the new baby.

But what did I find? About 100 girl dolls. White girl dolls, frills, laces and all.

What on earth was going on? My brows furrowed in puzzlement. Surely there must be some sort of boy doll I can buy. Maybe my search terms are wrong. Hours later, I had found some boy baby dolls, some crazy ugly plastic boy dolls, some adult action figures with huge muscles, and a few outrageously expensive European boy dolls. I ordered the outrageously expensive European doll. A week later I excitedly pulled the doll out of the box. Oh. It has lipstick, blush, and long hair. Seriously, that was the best boy doll I could find.

All I wanted was a doll that looked something like my own little boy. Then I realized that what I really wanted was some choice. Some diversity in the doll market. It doesn’t exist.

I decided to do something about it and started a company called Boy Story to add diversity and choice to our kids’ doll play. These dolls are for all kids of all callings. They are here to add depth to the market and make our toys as diverse as the world we live in.

Let’s break down the barriers so our kids can share the sandbox.

The community support for Boy Story has been overwhelming and heartwarming. Our Kickstarter just flew past its goal. You can be a part of this community today and add your support today – our campaign ends Wednesday. Please do, for all our kids.

We push boundaries all the time. We create the families that we want, with people we love, and raise our kids the way we believe is right. We give our kids choice.

Kristen M. Jarvis Johnson, Co-Founder and Owner, Boy Story

 

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I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, for the second year in a row. If you're not familiar with it, Dad 2.0 is a collection of Daddy Bloggers who create influential content about modern day fatherhood. Hence the "2.0." They are an amazing bunch of guys...inspiring to say the least.

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Walmart and Starbucks have both recently announced they will be expanding their parental policies to include gay dads. On January 24 2018, Starbucks announced it would be extending its 6-week fully paid parental leave policy for hourly employees to include non-birth parents (partners, and adoptive and foster parents). This news came in the wake of Walmart's decision to extend their parental leave to their full-time hourly associates, including same-sex couples, adoptive and foster parents. In addition, Walmart went one step further by creating a $5,000-per-child fund to a help employees adopt.

Despite Starbucks attributing these new policies to the recent tax reform, PL+US: Paid Leave for the U.S., a small nonprofit advocating for paid family leave for everyone in the U.S., believes that powerful advocacy is in part responsible for these new policies.

In January 2017, Starbucks announced a paid parental leave policy that ignored non-birth mothers and fathers entirely, and they were met with criticism from parental leave advocates.

"Ever since Starbucks announced a wildly unequal paid parental leave policy in January of last year, they have faced ongoing pressure from baristas, investors, and advocacy organizations, to treat all employees — and their families- equally," said PL+US.

One of the grassroots campaigns championed by PL+US was led by Niko Walker and Ryan Cervantes: two employees who loved their jobs but felt that Starbucks didn't love them back. Although neither were parents, they knew the policy which excluded dads, LGBTQ+, and adoptive employees, could one day affect them personally. Walker, a transgender male, and Cervantes who is gay, launched an online social media campaign through Change.org and met with Starbucks executives in June 2017.

In October, Starbucks updating their policy to include adoptive parents but still left out barista dads. But in January, they made amends with their latest parental policy announcement which includes fathers.

"When companies make big changes, they are responding to a number of factors including market forces, brand identity, employee demand, and public policy," wrote PL+US in an article for Medium. "All of these factors came together through our focused, targeted campaign that had a significant victory today."


Though paid surrogacy is legal in many parts of the United States, the practice remains illegal in New York. However, that may soon change. A state advisory panel recommended this month that New York reverse its ban on women serving as paid childbirth surrogates, the Daily News reports. New York has banned the practice since 1992, and is only one of 6 states that currently ban the practice.

The panel's recommendation specifically mentioned gestational surrogacy as a key way LGBTQ couples are able to start their families. The report says: "Equity must be a driving principle if all families are to enjoy the opportunity to welcome children into their family. Gestational surrogacy affords lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families an important opportunity to have children."

"I think it is a major step forward for our efforts to legalize commercial surrogacy agreements," said State Senator Brad, who used paid surrogates, out of state, in order to start his family with his husband David Sigal. Senator Hoylman has sponsored legislation along with Assemblywoman Amy Paulin to legalize the practice without the current requirement that the surrogate maintain a genetic relationship to the child they carry. The measure has been introduced every session since 2012 but has never advanced.

Holyman and Paulin hope the panel's recommendation will help give momentum to their bill, though Governor Cuomo has yet to weigh in on the matter. Gays With Kids will be sure to keep our readers up to date as this story evolves.


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