Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lesbian Albatross Colony in the News Again

The scientific community tries to tell everyone that just because a third of Hawaii's albatross colony consists of same sex birds, it is not at all the same thing as when we humans do it. Scientists avoid the suggestion of anthropomorphism while to us it is cause to raise the rainbow flag.

Lady Gagabatross: "Whatsa matter, haven't you seen a gay albatross before?"

The New York Times Magazine has done a very long, very informative article on homosexuality in the animal kingdom - and goodness, there is a lot of it. When news of this common occurrence first came to light a while ago, the media and politicians had a field day.

Speaking on Oahu a few years ago as first lady, Laura Bush praised Laysan albatross couples for making lifelong commitments to one another. Lindsay C. Young, a biologist who studies the Kaena Point colony, told the Times: “They were supposed to be icons of monogamy: one male and one female. But I wouldn’t assume that what you’re looking at is a male and a female.”

"A Denver-based publication for gay parents welcomed any and all new readers from “the extensive lesbian albatross parent community,” reported the Times. The conservative Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn highlighted Young’s paper on his Web site, under the heading “Your Tax Dollars at Work,” even though her study of the female-female pairs was not actually federally financed. Stephen Colbert warned on Comedy Central that “albatresbians” were threatening American family values with their “Sappho-avian agenda.” A gay rights advocate e-mailed Young, asking her to fly a rainbow flag above each female-female nest, to identify them and show solidarity."

"We just love to decorate our nesting site with a little green..."

Of course, straight people see things through straight lenses. As the Times article points out:

Various forms of same-sex sexual activity have been recorded in more than 450 different species of animals by now, from flamingos to bison to beetles to guppies to warthogs. A female koala might force another female against a tree and mount her, while throwing back her head and releasing what one scientist described as “exhalated belchlike sounds.”

Male Amazon River dolphins have been known to penetrate each other in the blowhole. Within most species, homosexual sex has been documented only sporadically, and there appear to be few cases of individual animals who engage in it exclusively. For more than a century, this kind of observation was usually tacked onto scientific papers as a curiosity, if it was reported at all, and not pursued as a legitimate research subject.

Biologists tried to explain away what they’d seen, or dismissed it as theoretically meaningless — an isolated glitch in an otherwise elegant Darwinian universe where every facet of an animal’s behavior is geared toward reproducing. One primatologist speculated that the real reason two male orangutans were fellating each other was nutritional.

The article is a great read for everyone, especially those of us in the LGBTQ community. New York Times Magazine article.

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