Disney geese Abigail and Amelia Gabble, via Disney Planet, France.
When a couple of friends of mine told their young son, “Say hello to Mr Henry,” the child looked puzzled. With the astonishing frankness of children he turned to his mother, asking, “But why does Mr Henry have a dog’s name?”. In fact, the boy had known just one Henry in his life, and this Henry happened to be a dog.
I felt a bit like poor Mr Henry a few days ago, when, opening the Turin newspaper, I read an intriguing headline: “Re-educating Chiara, the duck who believes she’s a goose”. I was very curious to know all about Chiara, the duck – just in case a small girl one day asks me why I have a duck’s name. So I went through the article, which could hardly qualify as life-changing reportage although it certainly made me grin more than once.
It so happens that my eponymous duck, who – according to the article – is a beautiful “white duck with blue eyes” (yes, we Chiaras are always beautiful) — is convinced she’s a goose:
“If a line of geese shows up in the zone where she lives, she follows them. She sleeps, eats and plays with them; and if one of them honks, she’s the first to imitate it. The bird is experiencing a chronic crisis of identity, probably due to the fact that she lived in the midst of geese since she was a duckling”.
Fortunately for her, my feathered namesake is cared for by a number of young volunteers. One of them explains: “Chiara has assimilated the habits and behaviours of the geese she lives with, and now she imitates them daily.” Furthermore:
“Chiara was adopted three years ago, together with Rocco, another duck with similar personality problems. This was so serious that Rocco was later entrusted to the proprietor of a nearby farm, because he [Rocco] had started to court insistently and sonorously, a couple of geese, who didn’t like it at all.”
Just imagine being a peaceful goose and having to endure a vociferous male duck’s courtship. You would tell Rocco he’s delusional, and to respect a goose’s private space. It is a bit like if you were a girl wanting to undress freely in a girls’ locker room, and a male comes in saying he’s a girl and wants to share your shower. Come to think of it, this has actually happened.
Well, fortunately for Chiara and Rocco, they’ve found a group of duck-loving volunteers – that is, people who don’t just like canard à l’orange but love live ducks – who are trying to make their biological reality and their identity match.
This laudable goal will certainly bring peace in the goose community, and also, possibly, reveal to both Chiara and Rocco that their duckness is not a bad thing; who knows, perhaps they’ll also discover that they belong in the same species, that they’re a male and a female, and live happily ever after.
This is the rosy scenario which will hopefully crown the efforts of the duck-loving volunteers and the hopes of the geese-loving ducks.
Unless an LGBT (Let Geese Be Trans) movement comes to light and tells Chiara and Rocco that if they feel like geese they are geese; that they shouldn't be re-educated at all, and that geese should accept them as they are.
Possibly, Chiara and Rocco should also be given plumage-whitening hormones which should enhance their resemblance to geese. In fact, Chiara is already white-feathered, so perhaps she was merely assigned to the wrong species at birth
All who care for trans goose rights should therefore leap to the rescue of poor Chiara and Rocco, because it is their decision to behave like geese if they feel like it, and no re-education should ever infringe their conviction.
With Italian elections scheduled to take place this weekend, it’s a good moment for proposing a duck-protection bill, allowing all ducks to have, finally, goosebumps like everybody else.
Dr Chiara Bertoglio is a musician and theologian moonlighting as a journalist. She writes from Italy. Visit her website.