Feeling too hetero for Spectrum? Confused by those post-T letters? With modern Britain becoming more and more open about identities outside the straight norm, acceptance and understanding are going to be crucial in our lifetimes. For thoughts and insights from the other team, look no further.
All creatures straight and more
Since around the middle of Lent term, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with nature documentaries. A few weeks in Cambridge sends me into full pet-withdrawal, and I end up gazing dreamily at the pigeons in Market Square or getting worked up about when the King's cows will return. Programmes like Planet Earth and Dolphins: Spy in the Pod have proved the perfect cure to this increasingly problematic habit.
After all, there’s something comforting about watching an elephant matriarch nursing her calf, or a tigress patrol her secluded jungle territory; it reminds you that there’s a world outside crammed college libraries and messy revision notes. I’d recommend everything Attenborough has on Netflix, then moving on to YouTube.
So that’s all lovely, but why write about it here, in this column? Well, one thing you don’t come across in nature documentaries is homosexual behaviour between animals, which has actually been reported a surprising amount in the animal kingdom. In fact, some claim that such activities can be found in 1,500 species worldwide.
I’m not a VetMed or a NatSci; I won’t pretend that frequently giggling over baby elephants sucking their trunks is any kind of grounds for a reputable knowledge of zoology, but a simple Google search reveals a surprising number of articles describing these supposedly “unnatural” behaviours in many different animals.
This isn’t necessarily something I would expect to find in a BBC documentary about the Sahara Desert (naturally, time is limited), but it’s heart-warming nonetheless. There are stories of bisexual bonobo monkeys, affectionate same-sex giraffes, and female albatross couples mating for life. Male penguins Roy and Silo’s adopted daughter Tango even inspired a children’s book in 2005.
These pairings may not be a strong foundation for political arguments – many of them may be influenced by male-female ratio in social groups – but they are still a brilliant opportunity for their human counterparts to get sentimental. I found the statement from Petter Bockman, an ‘expert’ from the University of Oslo, particularly uplifting: “Sexuality is not just about making babies, it is also about making the flock work.”
Whether the relationships between these animals are ensuring that offspring are safer and better fed or that there are fewer fights between young males, it seems they are having a positive, although admittedly very moderate, effect on these animal communities. With fantastic contributions being made to human society by LGBT+ people every day, this is a heartening parallel to draw – diversity and freedom from unnecessary inhibitions can be beneficial to all.
And it’s all especially wonderful if you love fuzzy baby animals and want to feel like at least a tiny part of your brain is operational during all that time you aren’t revising. Objectively speaking, of course.
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