I was riding the number 10 bus along East Hastings about four years ago when, right in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, I saw two men kissing.
One of them had a small white dog on a leash. The men’s blatant kissing in broad daylight was clearly reflected in the posture of their dog, who pulled against his leash and stuck out his chest like he was proud, important and had every right to exist.
I had always been an outspoken small dog hater, but in that moment everything changed. I fell in love with all small dogs and started to think of them as symbols of queer pride.
If you think about it, a lot of small dog hatred is related to homophobia and transphobia. Take the classic anti-small dog scenario: a two-pound male Chihuahua lifts his leg to pee or humps something, and someone makes a joke about his masculinity. How could something so small and weak-looking be “really” male? Or consider the popular image of the flaming fags who pamper their small dogs: what a perversion of the wholesome straight family.
I can’t recall any of my dyke friends ever having small dogs in the past. If they aren’t hardcore cat owners, they have big butch dogs, or at least non-frilly androgynous dogs. Are we dykes scared of the fluffy femininity of small dogs? When we turn away from them, is our own internalized misogyny at work?
Maybe the broadening of our understanding of gender since the ’90s has allowed us dykes to open our hearts to small dogs. They were everywhere at the Dyke March. And ever since I got my own small dog in August, my neighbourhood (Mount Pleasant) has revealed itself as a hotbed of dykes walking small cute things. The owners range from femmes to butches to androgynous lesbian types (judging by appearances and brief conversations).
Although I am still surprised by the juxtaposition of fluffy dog to non-fluffy dyke, no one else seems to be.
The stereotype is that small dogs are trembly and yappy, but if you really look at small dogs without prejudice you will see another side to them.
As the white dog in the Downtown Eastside demonstrated, small dogs have Small Dog Spirit. Having Small Dog Spirit means that you might be small and insignificant but you don’t realize it so it does not depress you. Or you look like a total dork because your legs are too short and you have a strange haircut but you couldn’t care less. Or you run the risk of being stepped on but the idea of a walk thrills you.
All my favourite queers have Small Dog Spirit.