Blåhaj, the cuddly plush shark beloved by all but especially embraced by trans people, is now an officially endorsed trans icon.
Blåhaj was first released by IKEA in 2014, as part of its line of plush toys. The shark quickly became popular with trans people, who bought Blåhaj sharks, posted pictures of them on social media, and bonded over their shared love of the plushie. Soon, Blåhaj became a way for trans people to connect with each other over the internet.
Now, the Halifax Sexual Health Center in Canada has debuted a handmade Blåhaj in the colors of the trans flag: blue, pink, and white.
As the Halifax Sexual Health Center explains in its Instagram post, the shark, called Beyou Blåhaj, is a donation from IKEA Canada. HSHC will make Beyou available to its patients as a comfort item to hug during medical procedures.
Instagram users reacted with excitement to the announcement, asking how they could get one for themselves, and joking that they were going to fly to Halifax to hug Beyou Blåhaj.
Although IKEA hasn’t commented on Beyou Blåhaj specifically, a spokesperson told Newsweek that “BLÅHAJ is one of our much-loved soft toys and we are happy to hear that people around the world regardless of who they are or how they decide to live their lives are continuing to celebrate and embrace the soft toy.”
Why is Blåhaj so popular with trans people?
According to the Blåhaj Reddit thread, there are lots of reasons why trans people love Blåhaj. “as a transfemme myself I got it partially because of the steortype (sic) that transfemmes have a blahaj but mainly because hehe big stuffed shark :),” says Reddit user alt_no5.
“As a trans guy, I really like embracing things 8yr boys would obsess over, including sharks,” says user PtowzaPotato.
Trans activist Erin Reed told Newsweek that the original Blåhaj is “kind of cute and has the trans flag colors—blueish body, white underbelly, pink mouth. Beyond that, I suspect it’s just like any meme—it’s something trans people have latched on to and claimed for trans culture because so few things are actually explicitly designed and marketed to us.”
IKEA also publicly supported same-sex marriage in 2021, when Sweden held a referendum to amend its Civil Code to include more LGBTQ protections.
But writer Meghan Cherry describes the core of Blåhaj’s appeal to trans people who missed out on the childhoods they deserved, and face stigma and isolation as they transition. “My affection for it started as a bit of a joke, but quickly became very earnest,” Cherry writes. “There’s something very valuable to the touch starved in a person-shaped pillow, packing a cute face to enter our heart.”
(featured image: haileyxb on Flickr)
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