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Gender fluidity exists – although with animals it’s not always obvious

Olivia and I are writing a book about gender, and after a bit of a struggle, I now agree with her conviction that masculinity is fluid. But not in our park, it isn’t. There are no social constructs out there, just testosterone-fuelled aggro.

We’ve had a rather tricky month. Daughter has a seriously broken foot; her little dog, Ernest, has had two eye operations; my old dog, Violet, has ulcerating toes, which means that dog walkies have been fairly hellish. As Daughter can’t walk, I plod around the sodden parks, clutching the dogs’ two leads, frequently carrying a bag of excrement, dog snacks and water bottle, one dog with its head in a bucket, the other with one foot in a boot.

But last week, walkies took a turn for the worse, when three local male dogs, which used to play with little Ernest, separately attacked him, and, naturally, Violet leapt to his defence, pinning each aggressor to the ground. We all wrenched the snarling, roaring dogs apart and I went home with the shakes. What was going on?

“He’s an entire male,” said the dog owners. The other entire males don’t like it. “Not since last Wednesday, he isn’t,” I tell them, because that’s when poor Ernest was castrated, during his second eye operation. He is suffering at both ends. Ouch. And excuse me, but why are their dogs still entire? One explained that her 15-year-old son won’t permit it.

It shook my belief until I noticed that news photo of three kangaroos: a male cradling a dying female, so that she could reach out to her child. See! Some gender fluidity. Males can be sensitive and caring. Olivia and I are right. But then the “animal behaviour experts” piled in with their oppressive stereotypes, insisting that the male had killed her while attempting copulation.

I don’t agree. I’m sticking with the poignant version and clinging to my belief in animal emotions and gender fluidity. I ask Fielding’s opinion. “I am not a dog or a kangaroo,” says he, testily/aggressively/fearfully/assertively/confused? Who knows? Perhaps we’ll meet a caring kangaroo in the park.

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