Johnnie JungleGuts reads from his new zine.
A QUEER AND DELICATE SHAPE PT. 4- SEXUAL DIVERSITY IN ANIMALS AND NATURE
Do humans who identify as transgender, intersex, or genderqueer have parallels in the animal kingdom as well?
Many animals, especially fish, change sex during their lifetimes. Blue headed wrasse go from female to male. Clownfish go from male to female ( this would have made a really good plot element in finding nemo if you ask me). Lastly, hamlets, a kind of sea bass, are male and female simultaneously. (8) Some coral gobies, a species of fish that live off the coast of Okinawa in japan, may switch genders multiple times in their lives. This ability to change gender can be highly beneficial if you’ve found another goby and it would be easier to switch genders to be able to mate with them rather than swim to some other part of the reef to find a new mate of the opposite gender. (2)
A QUEER AND DELICATE SHAPE PT. 3- SEXUAL DIVERSITY IN ANIMALS AND NATURE
Many opponents of queer sexuality would probably like to point to either religion or science for support of their beliefs. However, instances in nature show that in many cases some homosexuality can be beneficial to organisms. Not always, but there’s no way that it can be proven that homosexuality is universally detrimental to species. Homosexuality in the animal world as in the human world is not a direct mechanism for reproduction, but it can function as a social mechanism that can bring animals into an intimacy with one another. This intimacy can provide an organism with a buddy whose protection or aid will increase their individual fitnesses. For example, around 75% of male bottlenose dolphins live in highly sexual pair bonds of two or sometimes three males. These dolphins help each other find food, protect one another from various ocean threats, and engage in a wide variety of sexual behavior which includes mounting, oral sex, and genital/flipper stimulation. In some cases, homosexuality has evolved in the form of physical traits. Female Hyena’s are born with a vagina whose clitoris is capable of engorging to the size of a penis. Female hyenas can use these members to mount one another and female hyenas who have been documented mounting are known to offer a greater deal of parental care to one anothers’ young. (4) Why do they do this? Because sexual interaction in this species has come to promote a level of intimacy that causes partners to care for one another. Some would argue that pleasurable, intimacy gaining sex could only occur as a mechanism in species that had some degree of parental care. (7) So for a female hyena to evolve to traits that make her more attractive to other female hyenas would be highly beneficial to her fitness, because then not only males would be interested in helping her raise young but the females would be as well and her young would be more likely to survive.
Another way that homosexuality can serve as a useful tool is as a conflict resolver. In Bonobos, a species of pygmy chimpanzee, conflicts are often ended when one aggressive chimp decides to offer the other oral sex, or genital rubbing. (4) In these circumstances sex works as a tool to alleviate tension which will prevent animals from becoming injured or wasting their time fighting. This protection that sex offers will also increase fitness because it helps ensure that the Bonobo will be uninjured when it comes time to mate. (8)
HOMOSEXUALITY IN DOLPHINS
A QUEER AND DELICATE SHAPE PT. 2- SEXUAL DIVERSITY IN ANIMALS AND NATURE
If we take a closer look at the sexual patterns of animals that posses two sexes, we also find divergences from the darwinian model of sexuality in which all males are competitive with one another for female mates. many males of a species co-operate to find mates or share mates, which is in conflict with the notion that with very few exceptions, competition must occur between males. Ruffs, a species of sandpiper that live throughought Europe and Asia, have one gender of female and three genders of male with different behavior patterns surrounding mating. The first species of ruff, the black collared ruff, has a collar of black plumage around it’s neck and spends most of it’s time in a competitive mating nesting pattern called a lek. Females fly over the lek area and scope out which black collar males they find more appealing. The second type of ruff, a white collared ruff, does not have it’s own space in a lek and often flocks with females. However, when it’s time to mate, White collared ruffs will often settle down in the nest of a black collared male. The black collared ruff tolerates this behavior because female ruffs will be more attracted to a nest in the lek that has a black and a white collared ruff in it. This is because the female may already know the white collared male in the nest from flocking with it, and will be more trusting of it. Thus, the white collared ruff works as a sort match maker for the black collared ruff and in exchange is allowed the opportunity to share parentage of the eggs that the female produces. There is also a third gender of male ruff which possesses the color patterns of a female. Although I haven’t found any information on it’s heterosexual habits, This ruff has been documented engaging in mutual same sex mounting with other crested male ruffs- with both partners taking on the female and male position. (8)
Another case where male cooperation in gaining female mates occurs is in the Sunfish. Sunfish mating occurs with larger older males staking out territories and waiting for females to enter those territories while scaring off other potential males. However, younger and smaller sunfish of a different coloration will often come into the territory of an older male and the two males will solicit each other in a courtship ritual. In sunfish, fertilization occurs after a female has released her eggs. After release, the males sprinkle their ejaculate on the eggs and they are fertilized. A female entering the mating territory of two males who have engaged in a courtship ritual will allow both males to fertilize her eggs, and the paternity of her young will be shared by both. So why is the older, larger male allowing the smaller male to inseminate the eggs deposited in his territory? Because the female is more likely to mate with a male that also has a younger male partner with whom the older male has engaged in a courtship ritual with. Why is this? Joan Roughgarden, a Biologist at Stanford University, believes that these homosexual male courtships allow females to examine the behavior patterns of the larger male and see if he is healthy and will also not prove to be an aggressive mate. Thus she will be able to ensure her safety and increase her fitness. (2) These sort of behavior patterns seem odd because evolutionary theory promotes the idea that all species only reproduce for the purpose of furthering their individual genetic material. But in the case of the ruff and the sunfish, a shared parentage may actually increase fitness for the male because a female will feel more likely to mate with him if he has a partner.