You might have heard the quote that homosexuality exists in every single species on the planet but homophobia is found in only one: Humans.
But what is ‘homosexuality’ in animals?
Most zoologists would probably prefer you to say they are showing ‘same-sex attraction or behavior’, rather than label them with our words of ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’ or ‘straight’.
But very often animals can form relationships and bonds with others and do not stray away from them. Some show exclusive interest in only one gender and have their own ways of mating with the same sex.
What does that mean? How can we avoid humanizing animals (anthropomorphizing, in a word) when it seems like they’re going about their love lives in much the same thing as we are? And there are some species even where ‘same-sex attraction’ is the norm, as opposed to being wholly heterosexual.
So to celebrate Animal Month, take a look at some of the animals that if they were human (sorry zoologists) would probably be leading the Pride parade below:
Gay sex accounts for 94% of all observed sexual activity in giraffes.
Male giraffes have a unique way of flirting (and to occasionally show dominance) that is seen nowhere else on Earth. It is ‘necking’.
Two males stand side by side, and gently rub their necks on each other’s body, head, neck, loins and thighs. In some sessions this goes on for as long as hour.
This leads to sexual arousal. And while necking can sometimes lead to orgasm in of itself, sometimes they mount each other to finish each other off.
But this isn’t what a couple of guy giraffes do when the girls aren’t around. With both male and female giraffes present, males like to start necking with other males and often disregard any females present.
Female bonobos have sex in a way that in many aspects is unique to the species: These chimpanzees rub their genitals together. This is known as GG-rubbing (for genito-genital rubbing).
Some scientists believe the particular shape and location of the bonobo’s genitals have evolved specifically for lesbian rather than straight sex.
Flamingos have monogamous partners, and these can include two males, two females or a male and a female.
In one such example at Edinburgh zoo, a pair of male flamingos adopted a fluffy grey newborn chick after it was knocked out of the nest by its parents.
Three quarters of all bottlenose dolphins are in same-sex pair-bonds, and many of them mate for life.
On the death of a partner, some biologists have witnessed a long ‘mourning’ period. If they do decide to search for a new male companion, this will normally be unsuccessful, as most males will already be paired. But, if he can find another ‘widower’, the two may couple up.
Some female Spinner dolphins also sometimes ‘ride’ on each other’s dorsal fin.
Incidentally, an ‘orgy’ of same-sex behavior in a dolphin is known as a ‘wuzzle’. How horrendously cute.
A new addition to this list. This month, a new species of snail was named in honor of same-sex marriage.
Aegista diversifamilia are hermaphrodite animals, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs. Scientists claim they represent the ‘diversity of sex orientation in the animal kingdom’.
6. Vampire Bats
In vampire bats, between one half to three quarters of all companionships are between females.
So this means they have their own somewhat gross way of showing their commitment to each other. One female feeds the other by ‘donating’ or regurgitating blood for her to consume. If they are doing this, it could be a sign that they have been together for up to 10 years or more.
7. Sea Lions
More than 80% of New Zealand Sea Lion males exclusively mate with other males.
This normally results as a component of play-fighting, in which two males stand chest to chest and push against each other. Once one has achieved ‘superiority’, they will mount the weaker one. This is often why younger sea lions are more likely to mount the older males.
9. Killer Whales
While it seems like most animal mating seems to be as a result of some mounting, almost 90% of gay behaviour in killer whiles is reciprocated.
One third to more than one half of all male killer whales engage in gay sex, especially prevalent among the adolescents.
Some male partners have a favorite with whom they interact with year after year.
10. Billions of bugs and spiders
They may be cold blooded, but up to 85% of 110 species spiders and insects are getting hot under the exoskeleton when it comes to gay sex.
Some researchers say bugs may have evolved to not discriminate in their mating choices as the cost of rejecting an opportunity to mate with a female is greater than that of mistakenly mating with a male.
Others say there is no real clear benefit to homosexual behavior in insects and spiders, suggesting it could simply be innate.
Finally, penguins, the birds that are famous for many instances of lifelong relationships between male pairs and female pairs.
Unlike many animals, where the same-sex behavior can be argued to be a case of species-wide bisexuality or accidental, penguins are different.
Some males have been observed to seek out another male if their partner has died, and gay penguin couples are often noted to be good ‘parents’.
In zoo populations, anything from 5% to 10% of penguins are in same-sex pair bonds.
There are literally hundreds of species that have been observed as showing ‘gay’ behavior, and it really does show homosexuality and bisexuality is completely natural. It really is homophobia that doesn’t make sense.
All information gathered from recent studies published on GSN or in the Bruce Bagemihl book Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity.