Lesbirdians? Turns Out Animals Can Be Gay, Too!

Not sure how I missed this one last week, but according to a New York Times Magazine article, animals can be gay, just like humans. The Laysan albatross, which is considered one of the most monogamous species of birds in the animal kingdom, is not always as heterosexual as scientists once believed. As it turns out, many of these lovebirds are lesbians, or … lesbirdans? (Sorry, had to.) But the albatross isn’t the only example of a homosexual creature in the animal kingdom. Various forms of same-sex sexual activity has been observed in over 450 animal species including flamingos, dolphins, bison, beetles warthogs, koalas, and orangutans. So, basically, almost any kind of animal imaginable can be gay, although it’s less common in some species than others. And scientists have been keeping this kind of under the radar. Why? Because it’s just as touchy of a subject in the animal world as it is in the human world. Critics are calling these findings propaganda for equality in the struggle for gay rights. And naysayers are pointing out that animals do a lot of things, such as rape and eat their offspring, that aren’t natural behaviors for humans.

Scientists are still trying to understand the homosexual behavior of animals from a Darwinian perspective. Why would animals engage in behavior that violates the tenet of species propagation? Different ideas are emerging about how these behaviors could fit within that traditional Darwinian framework, including seeing homosexuality in the animal world as providing reproductive and evolutionary advantages for particular species in roundabout ways. For example, young male bottlenose dolphins mount one another simply to establish trust and form bonds that will be necessary when they mature and work in groups to find females to mate with. But there is still no unified theory about animal homosexuality.

I look forward to hearing more about this. I think these findings are exciting for humans. I’m hopeful that this will shift the way we look at homosexuality, so that it’s seen not as a choice but as a natural and normal part of life. [NY Times]