Guest Blogger

Who Says There Are No Gay Animals?

Filed By Guest Blogger | December 27, 2008 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living
Tags: Chinese gays and lesbians, Erik Deckers, gay animals, gay penguins, no gay animals, Ray and Silo

Editors' Note: Erik Deckers is a humor writer based in Indianapolis. He has been writing for 14 years, and published numerous columns, articles, and plays. He is currently working on a comedy novel about ghosts.

"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.

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Penguins aren't the only fey fellows in the animal kingdom. Most observed species have the occasional gay couple.

If you paste this into your browser you can see an article which talks about the 1500 or so species which have been know to be bisexual and have both hetero and homosexual relationships. Many individuals in many species have been seen in same sex relationships and these often change from one gender to the other in their focus over their lifetime.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 27, 2008 12:11 PM

Roy and Silo still bump into each other at art galleries, although meetings are generally awkward and uncomfortable.


a lot more to it than even this. the book Evolution's Rainbow by Joan Roughgarden (who is transgender) is fascinating reading. for example, the vast majority of Pacific Ocean geckos are female (i knew there was a problem with that Geiko insurance gecko). they reproduce asexually through a type of cloning, creating male offspring every so many generations in order to clean up the DNA that can become weakened over time by cloning. talk about Mother/Father Nature working it all out!

it was written as a scientific work and parts in the book are somewhat technical but it can open up a lot of eyes. like i said Mother/Father Nature does know how to work it out.

i'm sure that the right-wingnuts would probably attack the work as biased simply because Roughgarden is transgender, but what do they know? really!

Oh, I'll bet that some conservative Christians will dismiss gay animals as "the work of Satan" and a sign of the "fallen nature" of Earth that transpired since the Garden of Eden. They'll figure out a way to twist their beliefs to justify continued discrimination and hatred. You can count on it.

At least among primatologists, it is well known that certain species of chimps are largely Bi or homosexual, coupling with same sex partners in frequency which would make a gay man blush.

Also, farmers or ranchers will every so often come across gay roosters or bulls, or even transgendered animals who, though male or female, will act like the opposite sex.

The need for 'perfection' is a human failing. The universe loves to experiment and mix things up. Entropy is the only constant in the world. Part of most religions major failings is in not accepting that fact.

diddlygrl is correct, above. More specifically, chimpanzees and large apes tend to use male-on-male intercourse as a social mechanism for establishing dominance. Not that different from human male prison rape, this pattern isn't a very good one for use as PR to right-wingers ...

However, the bonobo primates in the Congo are very pan-sexual, and use sex as a form of greeting and/or group bonding, regardless on the gender-pairings involved. There isn't a lot of evidence, however, that they form male-male or female-female couples ... in fact, sex is so amorphous in a tribe of bonobos that even monogamous male-female couples are relatively rare, and the females often have several male partners so that the father of a particular offspring is impossible for them to be certain of. (By the way, the genomes of bonobos and humans overlap up to 98% ... evolution theory or not, that ought to be enough to slow down any argumentative right-winger.)

Male-male couples have been more widely documented in geese and mountain goats. Still, as footnoted by Rob Barton above, for almost every mammalian species, when a zoologist has taken a careful look for same-sex activity or bonding, it is found in one form or another. Its presence, albeit low frequency, is more the rule rather than the exception.

I have a joke in my stand up act about my uncle trying to explain what was going on with the bison that our neighbor had on his farm. The truth is that we understood that some animals just did that but the joke ends up getting lots of laughs from queer audiences.
Hell, my dog always thought that every walk in the park was a coming out party.