Puppies, Vets, and a Gender Binary System

Two weeks ago, on the last day of our road trip, we got a puppy. The girls have spent the last few months asking Ben and I for a puppy, and I finally caved. Big Sis A had been taking care of our rabbits for months, so I figured that she was ready.

I spent months scouting rescue facilities for months looking for the right dog since I knew that we only had one chance at this; once the kids saw the first dog, it would be over. Whether or not the dog was the right one for us, we’d probably be going home with it. I happened to find a breed of dog that we were interested in AND it was a puppy. The only problem? Its genitals. The girls really really wanted a female dog and this puppy had a penis.

I spoke to the girls about it and they decided that just because a dog had a penis didn’t mean that the dog needed to be a boy. With a transgender daughter, there was no way I was going to disagree with this logic. In fact, it seemed like a pretty perfect idea and K was so excited. In fact, on our way home, K declared that Daisy the puppy was “just like [her].” I was pretty sure that dogs didn’t give two hoots about what gender we assigned them and given the fact the puppy would be neutered very soon, gender mattered even less to me.

Our vet did not share our sentiments. I really don’t get it. Everyone else who met the dog noticed the gender discrepancy almost immediately. When we explain that the girls really wanted a female dog though, they ALL responded along the lines of, “Oh I remember when our kids did that with _____ animal.” This does not seem like a hard concept to grasp. When we went to Daisy’s first appointment, it was actually pretty funny. The vet and the assistant saw the pink collar and immediately started gender stereotyping the dog. They called her beautiful, baby talked her, told her what a great girl she was, etc. When the vet lifted her up to inspect the belly though, it all changed. My husband acknowledged that we knew the dog was male. He explained about our girls wanted a female dog. He also explained that we understood the dog would be neutered and not spayed. This did not end the conversation. The vet actually accused him of lying to her even though they never asked me Daisy’s gender when I made the appointment. She berated him for our decision to call the dog a different gender, and after the appointment while Ben was clearing our things to leave, she walked back in the room for no other purpose than to say that “Daisy looks like a boy dog.” The same woman who gender stereotyped the dog at the start. Holy cow.

After this exchange, I was so upset. Perhaps livid is a better word to use. And now we have to change vets. I’m just so happy that K wasn’t there at the appointment this time, although she usually is. At first, I figured that I would be mad, we’d keep the vet, and I would continue to give her attitude. Then I realized that K will be subjected to countless micro-aggressions throughout her life because of who she is. If I can spare her these, then it is my job as a parent to do so. Part of me feels like I’m over reacting, but most of me realizes that I need to help K in any way I can. Who’d have thought that K transition would even affect our choice of vet?! Luckily, a transgender individual in our area had a great recommendation for a transgender friendly vet, so I can only imagine they will go along with Daisy’s gender-conformity as well.

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