Individual worms typically have both male and female organs. To mate
they align their bodies with a partner and cross-fertilize one
is not natural,” claimed parliamentarian Roseanne Skoke in the
Canadian House of Commons. “It is immoral and it is undermining
the inherent rights and values of our Canadian families and it must
not and should not be condoned.”
With their hatred known as
opinion, homophobes almost always begin thus –
“unnatural!” is their most common invective. Where do they find a
nature to confirm them? They must know nothing of mud or marsh,
creek or ocean –
nothing even of their own wild hearts. To believe that homosexuality
is unnatural, they need stay completely unfamiliar with the world
outside – or within – where homosexuality is as common as dirt.
homophobes call us “unnatural,” the nature they imagine is
simple and desolate. It reflects only their own limited options.
They think animals and even plants are always either male or female,
and driven by a reproductive imperative. They dream that each
species is bent on competition, engaged in a battle for survival
that pits every life form against each other. They describe ants,
swans, chimpanzees and flowers as if they have no moral life, no
culture, and of course, no homosexuality.
both Bottlenose Dolphins and Spinner Dolphins, animals of the same
sex frequently engage in affectionate and sexual activities with one
another. Sexual activity between female dolphins includes
stimulation of the genital area by flukes or flippers, and a kind of
“oral sex” in which one animal stimulates the other’s genitals
with its beak. Sometimes female Spinner Dolphins swim together while
one inserts her fin into the other’s genital slit.[iii]
observation of nature yields another story. Birds do not come
paired, male and female, as they do in bird books. They come in
same-sex groups of three, five, and fifty. Bears and whales are
among the many animals that form male and female same-sex pair
bonds. They often raise adopted offspring. There is drag and
performance in nature, as when a male hummingbird courts another
male. He flies slowly back and forth, pivoting his body from side to
side, flashing bright orange mouth lining and facial stripes.[iv]
a South American bird, performs ritual dancing ceremonies for males
is excess and abundance in the ripening of fruit and the impossible
genesis of phytoplankton. There is mercy, as trees make air to
breathe, and rains nourish the earth. Plants make potent medicines
for animals and us. Birch trees act as nurse trees for newborn
Douglas Firs, sharing sugars through their roots.
is art and artifice in nature: beehive, bird’s nest, the
figure-eights run by a female deer to arouse another doe. Sexes are
not so opposite. There are many single-sex varieties of fish,
lizards, snakes and salamanders. One all-female species of
salamander has survived four million years.[vii]
Certain species of fish change their gender through
their life cycle, or when social circumstances demand it,
restructuring both brains and genitalia from male to female and vice
versa.Being queer, we are called to enter and partake of
this world of nature, around and within us. We can see it clearly, in all its
perversity and diversity. We can see and celebrate strangeness in
the world and in ourselves.[ix]
It is at least a beginning, from which we can work to forge an intimate
and restorative relationship with the natural world.
pair-bonds occur in both male and female Mallard Ducks. Male Mallard
that have been raised ytogether frequently develop homoseual bonds
of great strength and longevity. When large numbers of such birds
are present, they often form their own groups, known as “clubs.”[x]
homophobes have no beginning, no place from which to enter. To be
and remain homophobic, they have to stay ignorant of complexity.
They can never live with nature, singing its songs. Yet their
homophobia can be seen to express a yearning for nature, along with
a distance from it. It is a desperate, peculiar way to claim an
affinity with the wild. They imagine that heterosexuality is natural
through claiming homosexuality is not. Animals have nothing to say
to them, but nevertheless, they claim a kinship. They imagine birds
and bees are heterosexual, like them. They see the forest as
scenery, or a resource. They will never be at home there. Still,
they can feel their lives affirmed by its processes. They imagine
each species engaged in competition, and bent on reproduction . . .
so unlike the homosexuals. Homophobia imbues their awful, empty
lives with magic naturalness. They assert a secure place for
themselves and their values in the unfolding world, just by hating
the other hand, enlightened democrats may claim that homosexuals are
part of nature. Don’t blame gays and lesbians, they say. Queer
folk are only victims of Mother Nature’s caprice. Fuelled with
righteous certainty, they imagine the telling question: Why would
anyone ever choose to be gay, when it occasions so much misery and
loss? The notion that queer is a joy and a calling is anathema to
the democrats. The democrats manage to hold the same dim view of
nature as the homophobes, though giving grudging admittance to
homosexuality. But it is hard to weave us into the culture of
nature, without changing the colours and the pattern. Hence “the
cause” is madly pursued. Is homosexuality an adaptation, a
substitution, an aberration, a consequence? Is there a cure? Simply
affirming that homosexuality exists throughout nature requires a
reconceptualization of natural systems.[xi]
It asks that we recognize multiplicity and mutability, magic and
homophobe and the democrat want to live in a world ordered by
scarcity (competition) and functionality (reproductive usefulness).
We can begin to see it whole. Inside and outside, the world is wild.
In all its intricate and unseen process, nature is alive with
miracles and wonder. ▼
September 20, 1994.
Bruce Bagemihl, 1999.
Bruce Bagemihl, 1999.
Catriona Sandilands, 1994.
Andrew Lewis, 1998, (3).
National Geographic, November 1992.
Jacques Cousteau, 1975, (62-5).
Catriona Sandilands, op. cit., 23, writes: “A politics that
would celebrate ‘strangeness’ would place queer at the
centre, rather than on the margins, of the discursive universe.
It is not that we encounter ‘the stranger’ only when we
visit ‘the wilderness,’ but that s/he/it inhabits even the
most everyday of our actions. To treat the world as
‘strange’ is to open up the possibility of wonder, to speak
also with the impenetrable space between the words in our
Bruce Bagemihl, 1999.
Bruce Bagemihl, 1999, explores ways in which acknowledging the
widespread existence of animal homosexuality and
non-reproductive sexualities invites a radical re-thinking of
the natural world.