Speaking of Nature
Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com
When homophobes run out of other insults to hurl, they tend to fall back on
"unnatural." "Have you ever seen a gay dog?" they taunt. Well, Rover does
seem more interested in humping legs than listening to Cher. It's kind of a
weird-ass argument anyway: Cows don't drive cars, but that's no reason to
sell your Taurus. And, come to think of it, Mr. Musk Ox doesn't often go to
But there are queer animals, lots of them. From penguins to elephants,
from the Australian outback to right outside your window, Mom Nature often
gets quite queer.
Same-sex behavior has been observed in many species for centuries, but bias
often colored scientists' reports. If, after necking, George Giraffe mounted
Jerry Giraffe and shot his wad, that bit of hanky-panky was explained away
as "dominance behavior." Male-animal "perversion" was often attributed to a
shortage of fuckable females. Yet even in situations where heterosex is
readily available, many beasties still go homo. If bottlenose dolphins - a
species in which long-term male/male couples are common - are taken from
coed groups and placed in all-male environments, homosexual couplings
actually are less frequent, not more.
And it's not just Flipper. Bighorn rams love to ram into butt; homosex
accounts for about a quarter of their erotic activity during the mating
season. African elephant males affectionately frolic in pairs around the
waterhole, often with big old hard-ons, before one mounts the other. Pairs
of male gray whales have been photographed intertwining their penises - Moby
Dick, indeed. Even ugly old warthogs get gay and lesbian crushes. And then
there are bonobo apes, who are, genetically speaking, our closest relatives;
virtually all of those tree-swingers, male and female, are actively, hornily
While bonobo hanky-panky has been widely documented, it wasn't till Bruce
Bagemihl's authoritative 700-page book, Biological Exuberance, was
published that most of us realized just how widespread animal homosexuality
really is, occurring in more than 450 species. While it's important not to
draw too many animal/human parallels - gay orangutans rarely moisturize or
hang around in leather bars - it's more than clear that the birds and the
bees are often kinda queer.
When faced with the facts, homophobes have been known to sleazily change
their attacks. "Yeah, animals do it," they taunt. "So you want to be no
better than animals?" You can't win: It's a clear case of "damned if deer
do, damned if dogs don't." Opponents of gay parenting might (or might not)
be interested to know that pairs of female squirrel monkeys frequently raise
infants together: Heather Has Two Monkeys. But bias resists science, and the
bullshit about "unnatural" will probably persist, facts notwithstanding.
Still, it's nice to know that we queer humans are not alone. Same-sex sex
occurs throughout the wide, wide world, and it's not just creatures fucking,
but often courting, showing affection, and even forming lasting pair-bonds.
Homosexual and bisexual behaviors are not just odd aberrations or sinful
willfulness. They're a part of creation now, most likely always have been,
and will be until Earth is a cinder. When you're under attack from
fundamentalists, it can be somehow reassuring to think of two male ostriches
in love. Or baboons giving blow jobs.
So next time you turn on the TV, remember what doesn't make it to the
Discovery Channel: scenes like the one in Biological Exuberance of
tumescent guy walruses doing the butt thrust. As the Beatles would say, goo
goo goo joob.
Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines
Sex Talk: Other Subjects
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