Birds Do It, Bees Do It…

Via gay news blog


I know, I know. It’s a blatant “nyah, nyah, nyah” to people who like to claim that homosexuality is “unnatural,” and I know that whether it occurs in nature has no bearing on the notion of equality under the law within our own species, but this article about the gay penquins in Central Park Zoo in Manhattan is at least worth a look and a chuckle.

Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, are completely devoted to each other. For nearly six years now, they have been inseparable. They exhibit what in penguin parlance is called “ecstatic behavior”: That is, they entwine their necks, they vocalize to each other, they have sex. Silo and Roy are, to anthropomorphize a bit, gay penguins.

When offered female companionship, they have adamantly refused it. And the females aren’t interested in them, either.

At one time, the two seemed so desperate to incubate an egg together that they put a rock in their nest and sat on it, keeping it warm in the folds of their abdomens, said their chief keeper, Rob Gramzay. Finally, he gave them a fertile egg that needed care to hatch. Things went perfectly, and a chick, Tango, was born.

For the next 2 1/2 months they raised Tango, keeping her warm and feeding her food from their beaks until she could go out into the world on her own. Gramzay is full of praise. “They did a great job,” he said.

Roy and Silo are hardly unusual. Indeed, scientists have found homosexual behavior throughout the animal world.

One wonders why there isn’t an uproar in penquin soceity about this “alternative family.” I mean, if they want to live together that’s one thing, but hatching an egg and raising a chick is entirely another, isn’t it? Apparently not. The other penguins couldn’t care less.

I love, though, that the article also includes a mention of a book that sits on my shelf (which I bought after reading about the penquin pair a year or so ago.

Then in 1999, Bruce Bagemihl published Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (St. Martin’s Press), one of the first books of its kind to provide an overview of scholarly studies of same-sex behavior in animals. Bagemihl said homosexual behavior had been documented in some 450 species.

Last summer, the book was cited by the American Psychiatric Association and other groups in a “friend of the court” brief submitted to the Supreme Court in Lawrence vs. Texas, a case challenging a Texas anti-sodomy law. The court struck down the law.

In his book, Bagemihl describes homosexual activity in a broad spectrum of animals. He asserts that while same-sex behavior is sometimes found in captivity, it is actually seen more frequently in studies of animals in the wild.

The book itself is not exactly light reading, but it is interesting. It’s not something one would read from cover to cover, and one might be tempted to skip the long introductory section and jump straight into the numerous exampels of homosexual activity among a wide variety of creatures.

I don’t want to go too far down the road of looking for some scientific justification for homosexuality, but there are some notions worth considering when it comes to how gay people – like animals who engage in same sex activity – might yet aide the survival of the species.

Some scientists say homosexual behavior in animals is not necessarily about sex. Marlene Zuk, a professor of biology at UC Riverside and author of “Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can’t Learn About Sex From Animals” (University of California Press, 2002), notes that scientists have speculated that homosexuality may have an evolutionary purpose, ensuring the survival of the species. By not producing their own offspring, homosexuals may help support or nurture their relatives’ young. “That is a contribution to the gene pool,” she said.

Kinda like Roy and Silo, huh?

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4 Responses to Birds Do It, Bees Do It…

  1. Tim Who? says:

    They’re not really gay. Its a lifestyle choice.

    Damm them! Now they’re going to ruin the Sanctity of penquin marriages everywhere!
    A whole species doomed. Damm them!

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