Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who Says There Are No Gay Animals?

Who Says There Are No Gay Animals?

I originally wrote this as a guest blog post for the Bilerico Project, a national LGBT blog.

"There are no gay animals!" someone once said to me during an argument a few years ago. A lot of conservatives trot this one out, thinking this proves homosexuality is a choice, and not a genetic predisposition. My opponent threw this one onto the table, thinking this would end the argument completely.

"Au contraire," said the zoo in Harbin, China, brandishing contradictory evidence like Van Helsing waving a cross at Count Dracula. Then they put their hand in front of their face and shouted "Face! Boo-yah!"

I had offered up a similar response at the time, but my own lowly opinion does not soar to the lofty levels of credibility of a Chinese zoo. Plus I didn't do the "Face!" thing. I really need to work on my debate skills.

According to a December 15 story in the London Daily Telegraph, a pair of gay male penguins were expelled by other penguins from their colony after they repeatedly stole eggs from other couples. So zookeepers gave them a couple eggs to look after, following some protests from animal rights activists.

Turns out they're the best parents in the zoo.

But these aren't the only gay penguins in the world. In 2005, German zoo keepers flew a couple of Swedish female penguins/swimsuit models to try to turn the male penguins, but without success. A little fish, a little wine, some Tom Jones on the stereo. . . nothing, The male penguins were permitted to "remain gay," after protests by gay and lesbian advocates around the world, and the Germans said "Nein!" to Vorschlag Acht (Proposition Eight), thus allowing gay poultry to marry.

In 2004, a pair of male penguins in the Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo, also entered a monogamous relationship with each other, after zoo keepers performed a DNA test on the pair and discovered they were both male. The fact that the pair had been trying to hatch a rock for several months was another clue. The two were given a fertilized egg, and raised a female penguin named Tango. The story resulted in the children book, Tango Has Two Penguins. No seriously, it was called And Tango Makes Three, and it caused some controversy of its own around the country, when parents asked several school libraries to ban it outright, or at least move it to another section of the library.

But Roy and Silo's happiness was short-lived, after Silo left Roy and took up with a female penguin in 2005, although they supposedly broke up a year later. The two share custody rights with Tango, who is - no kidding - in a same sex relationship with another female penguin. Roy and Silo still bump into each other at art galleries, although meetings are generally awkward and uncomfortable.

(Scientific American has an extensive article on bisexual animal species.)

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I've been around a lot of conservatives in my life and I don't think I've ever heard someone use the argument that there are no homosexual animals.

    That is kinda funny, though. :-D


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