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Written by Michael Waters
He debuted in the '70s, to both acclaim and outrage. A lobby group called Protect America’s Children made this statement in 1978—about a doll: “It’s another evidence of the desperation the homosexual campaign has reached in its effort to put homosexual lifestyle, which is a deathstyle, across to the American people.”
That year, the release of Gay Bob, billed as the world’s first openly gay doll, caused a minor sensation. Enraged consumers complained that a toy with a homosexual backstory would lead to other “disgusting” dolls like “Priscilla the Prostitute” and “Danny the Dope Pusher.” Esquire awarded Gay Bob its “Dubious Achievement Award.” And anti-gay organizations across the United States blustered.
Gay Bob, who was meant to resemble a cross between Robert Redford and Paul Newman, was blond, with a flannel shirt, tight jeans, and one pierced ear. The doll gave anti-gay organizations plenty to fear; intrinsic within it was a celebration of gay identity, evidenced by Gay Bob’s programmed speech. “Gay people,” Bob said, “are no different than straight people… if everyone came ‘out of their closets’ there wouldn’t be so many angry, frustrated, frightened people.”
In a cheeky move, the box in which Gay Bob was packaged came in the outline of a closet, so that when he left his box, he was literally coming out of the closet. Gay Bob explained: “It’s not easy to be honest about what you are — in fact it takes a great deal of courage… But remember if Gay Bob has the courage to come out his closet, so can you.” READ MORE