A Montreal-based design firm has developed a toy it hopes will help children understand their gender identity.

LG2, in partnership with Gender Creative Kids Canada, spent two years creating Sam, a Russian doll that tells the story of a transgender child’s life-- from the early stages of gender questioning, to the sometimes difficult teenage years.

“The more that we explored it, the more that we realized that it was a really powerful metaphor to explain the emotional journey that trans youth go through,” Stuart MacMillan, creative director of LG2, told CTV Montreal.

The dolls are accompanied with a booklet and video to help students further understand the challenges some of their classmates might be experiencing.

Annie Pullen Sansfacon, associate professor at the University of Montreal’s school of social work, said the toy should help children at a young age understand some of the complex emotions they might be feeling.

“Research is very clear, that gender identity starts developing at around two to three years old,” Sansfacon said. “It will start consolidating around seven-eight, and then it might be expressed to others at any time during their lifetime.”

The stakes are high for the toy as a 2015 study from the University of British Columbia indicates more than 33 per cent of transgender youth have attempted suicide.

For Sansfacon, Sam can be a way of creating a communication line between these youth and the school administration.

“The schools get into a situation when there’s a transgender child, and then they’re like: ‘How do we deal with that? What do we do?’” Sansfacon said. “This educational tool is there to just open the discussion.”

About 500 Sam dolls have been produced for Canadian schools so far, but the toy isn’t expected to hit store shelves anytime soon.

“We really don’t have a target market, we have a mission,” MacMillan said. “The more schools and the more kids that we can talk to with this, the better--we think--the world will be.”

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Stephane Giroux