He doesn't look friendly.

Did he assume I wouldn't respond? Did he think that I would take one look at the narrow bifocals balancing at the tip of his pointed, ruddy nose, or glance down at the stubbled, leathery creases tucked under his chin and claim him exempt from persecution? I feel the overtired tank of a toddler squirm between my legs, excited at the prospective butt scratch from this new human. I question his thought process, that's a very strange thing to say to someone, why would you think that? I hope to give him a chance to reassess, but he insists further, He has a big head, he must have Bully in him. Yes, he does. American Bully, to be exact. In the middle of the night, when he wakes up facing my feet, he likes to spin back around and flop next to me on my pillow, smacking his huge skull against my own. A sleepy chuckle escapes me when I open my eyes and see a purplish mouth flap smeared upwards against my shoulder. He also has Husky in him. My back is stiff from months of being lurched forward from our point of connection at my waist, stumbling through clouds of dust until I can see the chaos beyond the wooden fence. I manage to dig my heels into the dirt, bringing us to an abrupt stop. I will now listen as he sings his tale of self-brought on woe.
It's a mental disorder, like autism or anorexia!

Inertia pulls my body into range and I feel spit hit my face. It would only take a second to lift my arm and wipe the vile stuff away, but I didn't dare move a muscle. He had never hit me. Could this be translated into an act of defiance and trigger him? He continues to yell incompetent insults. He defaces my experience of being transgender by conveying it as his own personal trauma, imposed upon him by his deluded teenager. My cheeks are hot. What are the chances of surviving a tuck and roll out of a moving van? It was worth looking up later. I imagine hitting the pavement and toppling into the shallow ditch on the side of the road. I would cradle my shredded elbow in my palm, not realizing that I was mashing two sources of bleeding together, and watch the carnage as my father's short fuse blows the entire vehicle up. Sharp left and a sudden stop. I hit my ribs against the armrest. We were parked at the trailhead. I throw caution to the wind and fling the door open, making sure to slam it behind me. I didn't know the first thing about surviving the outdoors, so running away deep into the mountains wasn't an option. I would have to be content at allowing myself to collapse on one of the large rocks that lined the lot. I press my hands against my mouth in an ill-fated attempt to smother my blubbering but I start to drown. A young couple emerges from behind the rows of awkwardly parked cars, hiking poles and camelbacks at the ready. They slow their pace, considering, but ultimately deciding against, checking in with the crying kid invading their peripherals. The expression on my dad's face is stone, but his eyes flare with a seething embarrassment. The likelihood that the hikers had heard his string of abuses held no concern; He was embarrassed at the mere thought that they had been forced to witness the antics of his gender-deviant child with a mental disorder, like autism or anorexia. How funny is it that he wouldn't accept my autism diagnosis years later?
You can't even take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of a dog?
Salix is the Latin genus for willow. One day he would grow to be as strong and beautiful. For today, he was a mound of snores and slobber, slightly overweight from stealing his sibling's kibble. He was one of seven, plus mom, rescued from the armed residents of Northern Manitoba that were looking to cull the population of ex-pets that had their breeding abilities kept intact by the very people hunting them. Salix was estimated to reach anywhere from 60 to 100 pounds and, based on mom, had some boxer or pitbull in him, secondary to German Shepherd, but you never would have guessed that based on his colouring. Some examples of comparison come to mind: a lightly toasted marshmallow, the crust of a sourdough loaf leaving the oven, earl grey tea taken with an excess of cream and a small vanilla scone teetering on the edge of the saucer beneath it. His double-coat is short, and his skin is sensitive, so we use a gentle shampoo of oatmeal and aloe. When I bury my face into his thick scruff my heart is filled with the scent of vanilla and almond. I am calm. No one else sees this. All they see is a big head.