Are My Dogs Transgender?
by Kathleen Rohr
My white dog barks at avocados, Alec Baldwin, and dung beetles. To be fair to Alec Baldwin, he only barks at him when he has a beard.
Buddy is one of three dogs in my household. He is a Maltipoo, half poodle and half Maltese, and suffers from identity crisis, not clearly fitting in with either breed. He has the fluffy tail that he carries over his back like a Maltese and the short kinky hair of a poodle. His face makes it all the more confusing because it looks like a teddy bear. In Buddy’s chart at the vet he is listed as a Maltese mix. When I walk him, people say “How cute” and, with confused looks on their faces, ask what kind of dog he is. I say he’s neurotic. To make life easier, should I tell them he is a Maltese or a poodle?
I never saw myself owning a designer dog, but here he is. And here is my other small dog, another Maltipoo named Smoky. My husband says I am spelling his name wrong, that Smokey the Bear has an “e” in his name, to which I say, well I named Smoky, I can decide how to spell his name, and, besides, he isn’t a bear.
Another issue arose when I had Buddy and Smoky castrated. The vet cut those balls right off my puppies, because as cute as they are, I don’t want more of them in the world. A friend argued that they were no longer males, because one of the two body parts that defined them as boys had been lopped off. But they have penises, I said. Doesn’t matter, he said. Fifty percent of maleness is not enough to qualify them as males. Should I call them females then? I asked. No, of course not. They are eunuchs, he said, which gave me the visual of people dancing with shoes that curl up at the toes. Buddy does confuse me sometimes when he humps Smoky, but maybe he’s gay.
My canine issues make me think about conversations and monologues that are currently populating social media about Caitlyn Jenner. She refers to herself as “she” while Anne Lamott, a white woman with dreads, says Jenner will be a “he” until she loses her penis. But Anne, look, Caitlyn has new breasts. Doesn’t that—or more accurately they—qualify as female? Does she need a vagina to be a woman? Does an apparatus that has a urinary function define someone’s gender?
Is Caitlyn able to use women’s restrooms and dressing rooms? If she’s on a sinking ship, will she be rescued first along with the other women and children? All this categorizing, identifying, proselytizing, philosophizing gives me a toothache. Isn’t Caitlyn the only person to determine her status, and when it comes down to it, why does it matter to anyone but us individually how we define ourselves?
I don’t think my dogs care how I categorize them as long as their meals are on time. Maybe I’ll give them an avocado.
Kathleen Rohr has an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles and a certificate in fiction writing from UCLA/Extension. Her short stories, poetry, and essays have been published in Emrys Journal, Lunch Ticket, Montreal Review, and elsewhere, and she was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Open Fiction. She holds JD and LLM degrees.