Sara’s Diary, March 2019
I purchased a fifteen-week-old pit bull puppy on March first. He is a legitimate pit bull: an American Pit Bull Terrier (registered under American Staffordshire Terrier with the AKC), born of an “oops” litter between a dog trainer’s pet and a friend’s miniaturized tank. At least, I assume that the father was a miniaturized tank, because my pit bull is very good at running into things with his head and bad at changing directions before that happens.
His name is King. All my pets are named after authors or literary characters, and I’ve been waiting to have a Stephen King homage for years. In truth, it’s a very silly name for a very silly dog; King sounds butch, manly, and my dog is a toddler with more skin than common sense.
Even though this goofball with a whip-tail of destruction is a bundle of licks and nibbles, I’ve already heard a lot of praise for how manly he is. His name is manly. His American flag collar is so manly. (And patriotic!) This was the last thing I hoped to communicate about my pit bull, considering there are still anti-breed laws in many places that treat pit bulls as dangerous monsters.
In much of white America, masculinity is a prickly thing, both hostile and defensive. It’s synonymous with being “tough.” I don’t ever want my dog to look tough—for his safety.
So of course I bought my pit bull, King, with his tank-shaped head and shoulders and destructo-tail a very bright pink reflective leash.
You can’t miss how pink this leash is. It’s a climbing rope, so it’s an inch thick. King likes to take himself for walks so he’ll often have it looped in his mouth while he trots home, looking for a good bed to nap in.
Pink this vivid is culturally reserved for the feminine and gay. My puppy has done nothing to indicate his gender identity, but he does like to sit on my other boy-dogs’ faces, so it’s safe to assume that he is gay at this point. And why not? I’ll be removing his testicles soon enough. He’ll be left semi-infantilized for the duration of his brawny life. He yips like Satine in Moulin Rouge. He flings his head sassily when he argues with me.
I don’t think he’ll disavow anyone of the notion he’s gay.
He’s very cute. He looks harmless with it. And now people won’t immediately praise him for perceived toughness.
This morning I walked my dog on his bright-pink leash. I passed a neighbor that I know to some small degree: he has two enormous German Shepherds, he loves football, and he’s got a military background.
His dogs sniffed my dogs, and we briefly, happily chatted about the fact I had a new puppy.
“How old is she?” he asked.
“Oh, he’s only about four, four and a half months,” I said, trying to remember what day it was.
If people “misgender” my dog, I will often avoid using pronouns so as not to deal with the awkwardness that follows. People feel like they have to apologize for misgendering your dog. They always apologize to me, rather than my dog, who does not care about his pronouns and actually has no idea what pronouns are, although he’d really like to chew on a pinecone for a little while.
And indeed, it was like the conversation ground to a halt when I said “he.”
My neighbor’s mouth fell open. He said, “He’s male?”
I said, “Yep, he’s a boy,” and petted the enormous German Shepherds.
His wife and I chatted briefly about something else, but we had not yet moved on from the leash issue. The husband interrupted me to say, “I guess I was just thrown off because of the pink leash.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Doesn’t it look nice with his fawn fur? Pink and fawn look so nice together.” Plus, my dog is light in tone on his paws, his chin, his eyes. He looks like a buttery Valentine’s cherub of a pit bull.
The neighbor simply did not respond.
He looked alarmed, somehow. They walked away quickly, and I won’t guess at whether they had places to be or if they really didn’t want to talk to the weird lady with her gay puppy.
I’d been hoping that dressing my boy dog in a girly manner would make him more appealing. Now I realize that making him look gay never made him less threatening. Bold defiance to cultural norms doesn’t exactly make the conventional hetero cis white American feel more comfortable with any situation.
Sara’s Diary: May 2019
It’s now May and my little angel is six months old.
We’ve had more encounters with our neighbor, again awkwardly stumbling over pronouns and being loudly reminded by his wife that the ambiguously-leashed dog is male. (“Oh! I’m so sorry!”)
I’ve ditched the patriotic collar for a martingale with a silver chain dangling at his throat and a braided leather leash in all the colors of the rainbow. If he were to attend Pride, King would surely march with the burly, loving BDSM bears.
His dressing doesn’t seem to matter. People are threatened by King even though he has roughly the genial personality of a Nutter Butter cookie sandwich and the vigorous affection of Elmira from Tiny Toons.
Most people are happy to see him. The people who aren’t tend to be unhappy in dramatic ways.
One time a man literally ran from a park because he realized I had a pit bull. King was so sad. He had no clue why that man didn’t want to pet him.
Frankly, Park Guy was right to be afraid.
King can’t be around other dogs at the same time as food or toys. He’s a feisty gay, sassy about his belongings. He won’t make you bleed for touching his Himalayan yak chew but he’ll drool into your ear while making Chewbacca noises. I’ve become hyper-alert to his tantrum pre-warning signals and become adept at crating him for a nap before he turns into a drag queen backstage who realized someone touched her wig.
One time he hurt me because he jumped on me to say hello while I was wearing shorts. His little puppy claws hadn’t been properly manicured in too long—he made me bleed. Also, I have seventeen bruises on my shins from his tail alone.
Also he stuck his tongue in my mouth. It tasted like farts. I drank a family-sized bottle of Listerine.
Loving this puppy is deadly.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being unpalatable to society is a feature, not a bug. People who run from his big jaws and stubborn nose don’t get to snuggle in the hammock with him either. I’ve had three blissful months with my gay dog and I couldn’t be prouder or gayer.