Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nature is Totally Gay

The one, and only, Jonathan "Fox" Gray gives us a short story about a classy gentleman with a taste for fine drinks who boldly explains why nature is totally gay.

Posted by Jonathan Gray

Image Credit: Kabir Bakie at the Cincinnati Zoo May 2005
Our own contributing blogger Jonathan Gray gives his amazingly witty, informative and humorous introduction to the world of science, Enjoy:

It's just another Friday night, and you're in your usual place at the
local pub, the chaise-longue by the fireside, swirling a glass of '72
Janneau Armagnac and feeling the buzz of both it and the small crowd
your charm; magnetism attracts. They burst into frivolous giggles
when you finish arguing how most Shakespeare works could have been
solved by the availability of text messaging, and then all of a sudden,
there's a commotion at the bar! Some decibel-ignorant fellow is making
statement at great length and of greater vulgarity. This will not do.

You approach, seeing that he's drinking the kind of beer only
hipsters drink ironically (it has 'Lite' in the title), and he brays
from under his shoddy buzzcut: “Homosexuality! It ain't natural!” (at
least, this is what you choose to repeat, having edited the statement
for comprehensibility).

The bartender is already eyeing you, the most cultured and
sophisticated regular, and it's a look that says 'if you take care of
it, it's drinks on the house'. Ever obliging to your crowd of
admirers, you charge into the fray, and engage this sadly mistaken

“Actually,” you begin, “you'd be surprised how often it does occur in nature.”
He turns to you, confused by this intellectual interloper challenging his views.

You continue, “We'll disregard for the moment the behavior of our
closer relatives in the kingdom of mammals, those Bonobo monkeys who
will frenetically copulate with any object, animate or otherwise.
We'll pass over the mention of orangutans being a notable species that
has an active trade in crafted sex toys--” Your attention here is
rather commendable, given the high probability that this ruffian finds
the idea of being related to monkeys as offensive as homosexuality
(despite his evident simian features). “Far from simply being
'accidental' jostlings of the pelvic nature by certain near-sighted
species, there are many instances of animals engaging in same-sex
squishiness. Dolphins, giraffes, bisons, Bighorn rams, and crab-eating
macaques are among the many species with documented male-male
pairings. There are a further 25 documented species of animal that
engage in far more group-friendly pursuits: less so wife-swapping key
parties, but moreso gigantic festivals of exuberant shuddering

You pause, allowing the crowd to contemplate your words. “It's not
just a purely sexual pursuit, with many documented cases of life-long
pair-bonds between same-sex members of a species. Further, it's widely
observed that acts of animal gayness can occur well outside of the
breeding season, if not all year 'round, making it a far less-likely
candidate for a mere hetero-helping survival strategy, or diversion.
Exclusively homosexual animals aren't uncommon in the least. Why, it's
about as natural as can be.”

A plaintive sip from your brandy snifter follows as your argument
sinks in. The man, trounced by expertly-quoted evidence, exits in a
bluster, stage right. A rousing cheer, and drinks are freshened. You
settle into a whiskey sour and a general sense of entitled
achievement. Just another Friday night.

Bagemihl, Bruce (1999). Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Becker, C., (1984). Orang-Utans und Bonobos im Spel: Untersuchungen zum Spielverhalten von Menschenshenaffen [Orang-Utans and Bonobos at Play: Investigations on the Play Behavior of Apes], pp 149, 152, 193-194, Munich: Profil-Verlag.

Connor, R.C., & Smolker, R.A. (1995). Seasonal Changes in the Stability of Male-Male Bonds in Indian Ocean Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops sp.). Aquatic Mammals, 21, 213-16.

Gouzoules, H. (1974). Harassment of Sexual Behavior in the Stumptail Macaque, acaca arctoides. Folia Primatologica, 22:208-17.

Hogg, J.T. (1987). Intrasexual Competition and Mate Choice in Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. Ethology, 75, 119-44.

Lott, D.F., K. Bernirschke, J.N. McDonald, Stormont, C., & Nett, T. (1993). Physical and Behavioral Findings in a Pseudohermaphrodite American Bison. Journal of Wildlife DIseases 29, 360-63.

Rothstein, A., & Griswold, J.G. (1991). Age and Sex Preferences for Social Partners by Juvenile Bison Bulls. Animal Behavior, 41, 227-37.

Spinage, C.A., (1968). The Book of the Giraffe. London: Collins.


  1. Do you have a source, or some pictures of the gayness?

  2. I'll be adding the hyperlinks in the next few days, there was just some mix-up so they weren't available at the time of posting. There are actual documented studies on this however. here are a few in the meantime:

    Savolainen V, Lehmann L. (2007). Evolutionary Biology: Genetics and Bisexuality. Nature; 445:158-159.

    Dagg AI. (2008). Homosexual behaviour and female-male mounting in mammals-a first survey. Mammal Review; 14(4):155-185.

    Akers JS, Conaway CH. Female Homosexual Behaviour in Macacca Mulatta. (2007). Archives of Sexual Behaviour; 8(1):63-80

    The book below is also available in various parts on google books:

    Sommer V, Vasey PL. (2006). Homosexual Behaviour in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective. Cambridge University Press.

    Sorry, but there are no pictures at the moment. If the author sends me any I'll be sure to post them up.