South Africa is again, tragically, facing a scourge of violence against the LGBTQI+ community – assuming there was ever a time when gay, bisexual and trans people were not subjected to violence just because of their sexuality or gender identity.
Most homophobes and transphobes feel quite comfortable justifying their abhorrent views and actions by arguing that homosexual behaviour or legitimate gender expressions are not natural.
In the face of the brutality that the local LGBTQI+ community is met with every day, it’s worth taking a look at just how homosexual behaviour and gender expression play out in the natural world. Considering that same-sex sexual behaviours have been recorded in 1,500 species, its time to accept that nature’s pretty damn queer!
These mammals are regularly cited when referring to homosexual behaviour in the natural world, and for good reason. The first prominent study of homosexual behaviour among bottlenose dolphins was published in 2012 and caused quite a stir when scientists observed homosexual behaviour in groups of young male bottlenose dolphins, and also noticed that males often form lifelong pair-bonds with one another.
Studies concluded that male bottlenose dolphins were “found to engage in extensive bisexuality, combined with periods of exclusive homosexuality”.
The Laysan albatross
Among the Laysan albatross population, native to Hawaii, 31% of pairs are female couplings. These monogamous birds stay together for life and even raise chicks together. The small birds are often fathered by male albatrosses that already have mates.
These primates share almost 99% of our DNA, and their active libidos are often highlighted. Bonobos live in matriarchal societies and are uncannily human in their behaviour. These apes often use sex as a means of conflict resolution, and homosexual behaviour is very common, especially among the females.
All adult females often engage in rubbing their genitals together, and scientists consider this a form of cultural behaviour. While males also frequently engage in same-sex activity, lady bonobos are considered prime examples of natural homosexual behaviour that is done for no other reason than pure pleasure.
Who would’ve known Nemo was such a master of gender bending? In clownfish society, schools are headed by females, with the male with whom she mates as the second-in-command. When the dominant female dies, her mate takes charge and changes his sex to female.
As female clownfish are typically larger than their male counterparts, this transfer of power also means that the male grows larger once he has taken the dominant position, with the rest of the school also changing in size according to the new hierarchy.
Penguins have been recorded engaging in homosexual behaviour by scientists since at least as early as 1911. These reports were deemed too shocking for the public and were actively suppressed by scholars. More recently, Zoos around the world have highlighted many same-sex penguin couples.
In 2019, London Zoo housed at least three paired same-sex Humboldt penguin couples, including Ronnie and Reggie who famously adopted and hatched an egg that had been abandoned by another couple. The story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins who raised a chick named Tango in New York’s Central Park Zoo in 2004, became the basis for the well-known children’s book And Tango Makes Three.
The spotted hyena
When noticing spotted hyenas in the wild, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that there are far more males than females. This is because the female spotted hyena’s genitalia looks remarkably like a penis. In fact, females have elongated clitorises. Females use these organs to urinate, mate and give birth, and their clits can even become erect, just like penises.
Look, the fact of the matter is that the whole “being LGBTQI+ is unnatural” thing is not, nor has it ever been justification for discrimination, violence and murder. You might have heard it before, but it remains true that while homosexuality features quite prominently in nature, only one animal exhibits homophobic tendencies: and that’s homo sapiens.