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February 14, 2005 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Gay outrage over penguin sex test BBC News is reporting that gay rights activists are protesting the plans of a zoo in northern Germany to test the sexual orientation of "six male penguins which have displayed homosexual traits". Omitted from the BBC article is a summary of what the protesters are actually concerned about, but The Scotsman is there.
posted by kcds (48 comments total)

 
My first FPP. Please be gentle.
posted by kcds at 9:17 AM on February 14, 2005


*uses kcds roughly*

on preview: oops, sorry.

Once again, an issue where I look at the torrents of outrage and can only think, "What are you all going on about?" Am I going to lose my loony queer radical ID card?
posted by kyrademon at 9:21 AM on February 14, 2005


"six male penguins which have displayed homosexual traits".

What are we talking about here? Limp fins? Demands that the thrown chum be replaced with sushi, what?
posted by jonmc at 9:22 AM on February 14, 2005


Wha-a-at? You mean an all-male incarcerated population is exhibiting some homosexual traits? Surely not! Gosh, is there any precedent for this among any other populations?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:24 AM on February 14, 2005


They were always dressed in tuxedoes, jonmc, even the female ones. Couldn't be more clear.
posted by kyrademon at 9:24 AM on February 14, 2005


Mmm, you could be on to something. I blame this little minx quite frankly. Who could resist him?
posted by jonmc at 9:30 AM on February 14, 2005


Sometimes, I think these groups get outraged simply because they like to be outraged. I mean, God forbid someone force these birds back into a straight alignment through cruelly providing females of the species. It's only the survival of their species on the line.

Seriously, though, I bet the people protesting this eat chicken, and are therefore cool with the unwilling slaughter of similar animals, as long as their sexual lifestyle is respected.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:39 AM on February 14, 2005


I blame this little minx quite frankly. Who could resist him?

So there is a market for my Chilly Willy meets Pokey slash fiction?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:40 AM on February 14, 2005


On the other hand.... But perhaps that bow is merely a ruse. Because he seems to swing across species lines as well.

I feel so dirty.
posted by jonmc at 9:44 AM on February 14, 2005


You are all jealous because someone is finally getting up out their armchair and trying to bring some change to this doomed world.

Long live the homosexual penguins in peace!! Let there be justice!
posted by grehy at 9:45 AM on February 14, 2005


All Penguins can't be this manly.
posted by stifford at 9:46 AM on February 14, 2005


Indeed grehy. We should listen to Rufus Thomas and Do The Funky Penguin.
posted by jonmc at 9:47 AM on February 14, 2005


haha the cheap sushi shot was hilarious
posted by Dean Keaton at 9:48 AM on February 14, 2005


Do they have White House press credentials? That's what I want to know.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:48 AM on February 14, 2005


Linus Torvalds unavailable for comment.
posted by knave at 9:54 AM on February 14, 2005


OK, I'm pretty interested in teh gay issues, and penguins for that matter. But here's the part of the story I became convinced the Onion had a new URL:
Gay rights group HOSI ... said ...: "We deeply resent the attempts to interfere in the natural homosexual instincts of these penguins that are obviously happy in their same-sex partnerships. We urge any further attempts to break up these happy couples to be abandoned."

In other news, all penguins are welcome at the United Church of Christ.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:58 AM on February 14, 2005


I must say, as a gay rights activist: whaaaa???

Simply introducing females to the light-in-the-loafers penguins is forcing them to be straight?

Gee, I'd better stop taking my gaggle of fags to the straight parts of town...
posted by Specklet at 10:00 AM on February 14, 2005


I see the zoo is bringing in a Swedish penguin bikini team. Like that would work.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:01 AM on February 14, 2005


The males have been observed (...) trying to hatch offspring out of stones.

I find this to be more interesting than the homosexual pairing/mating itself (which is quite commonplace in the animal kingdom). What can possibly happen in a penguin's mind to try to do such a thing? And what happens if a gay penguin couple is given a real egg for instance?
posted by elgilito at 10:06 AM on February 14, 2005


I thought they did that and they successfully hatched it. Aren't the gay penguins old news?
posted by agregoli at 10:09 AM on February 14, 2005


Bremerhaven's Zoo am Meer said it would introduce four extra female penguins from Sweden to the group to see if the males really were gay.

swedish girls on vacation.
posted by three blind mice at 10:11 AM on February 14, 2005


agregoli: yes and yes.

"They got all excited when we gave them the egg," said Rob Gramzay, senior keeper for polar birds at the zoo. He took the egg from a young, inexperienced couple that hatched an extra and gave it to Silo and Roy. "And they did a really great job of taking care of the chick and feeding it."

reported widely in 2002.
posted by nequalsone at 10:19 AM on February 14, 2005


kyrademon
They were always dressed in tuxedoes, jonmc, even the female ones. Couldn't be more clear.

That's the line I was looking for. I knew there had to be a tuxedo joke in there somewhere, I just couldn't quite put my finger on it.

You know, I consider myself to be in the "straight but not narrow" category (metaphorically and literally, sadly) and I tried real hard to muster some outrage over this issue but ... I just couldn't.

OTOH, this does rather put the kibosh on the "homosexuality is a learned trait" and "societal conditioning makes you queer" theory, doesn't it? Mind you, there are those who believe that humans alone are the only animals born without any instinctive or otherwise genetically determined behavior, so, in fact, maybe homosexuality is only congenital in animals other than humans, and maybe these penguins and their gay animal cohorts are actually responsible for human homosexuality, and therefore ...

... penguins are the hitherto unrecognized vectors for teh gay!

It appears godhatespenguins.com is available. Fred Phelps, are you listening?
posted by kcds at 10:21 AM on February 14, 2005


So, these gay penguins...they want to make babies, eh? Engage in parenting and nesting, eh?

Time for a constitutional amendment!
posted by dash_slot- at 10:49 AM on February 14, 2005


"OTOH, this does rather put the kibosh on the 'homosexuality is a learned trait' and 'societal conditioning makes you queer' theory, doesn't it?"

No. I don't see how this means anything with regard to humans. Homosexual behavior has long been seen in animals and in some cases it's when the male to female ratio is very high. The people that are absolutist one direction or the other (nature/nurture) have reasons that they see humans as exceptional and unique.

Anyway, this is the stupidest thing I've read today. It does seem like it has to be satire, doesn't it?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:50 AM on February 14, 2005


What is all the fuss about? At least the gay German penguins can get married.
posted by casu marzu at 10:55 AM on February 14, 2005


What a bunch of queens.
posted by dios at 11:13 AM on February 14, 2005


In all seriousness, these penguins may well be studied for years, but the conclusions will not be accepted by many, unless it fits their preconceptions.

Meh.

BTW, casa marzu, that brings up a semantic point about the differences between 'marriage', 'life partnerships' and 'civil unions': the BBC report phrases it so:
Germany has allowed same-sex couples to register for "life partnerships" since 2001. The law only gives couples the same inheritance and tenants' rights as heterosexual married couples.
I guess if the german queers feel married, and are perceived as married, then they are married. Me, I wouldn't. They need to use the same word for everyone, with the same meaning for everyone. It seems that the germans don't have that yet, sadly.
posted by dash_slot- at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2005


They need to use the same word for everyone, with the same meaning for everyone. It seems that the germans don't have that yet, sadly.
posted by dash_slot- at 11:15 AM PST on February 14


So if there was gay marriage, but then heterocouples started using a new word... say "bigodlymarriage"... and started using this word for the things we traditionally call marriage, then you would demand that they let you use the bigodlymarriage name too?
posted by dios at 11:19 AM on February 14, 2005


Well, the whole thing strikes me as burning outrage looking for an excuse to rear it's flaming head.

I'm about as gay friendly as one can get, when one is hopelessly hetro, but the "outrage" over this is silly. Introducing females into the environment of an endangered species is hardly gay-bashing.

Frankly, I don't know, nor do I care, how or with whom penguins mate. After reading Opus cartoons for most of my life...I'm just glad they found someone to snuggle.

That said...the sushi and Swedish bikini team jokes made the thread worthwhile. ;)
posted by dejah420 at 11:27 AM on February 14, 2005


dash_slot: I was making a joke, of course, but thanks for the clarification. I remembered the story when it came up but had long since forgotten the details.

You are right that the issue is not so much the name of the act, but the rights that it confers. If gays are allowed to enter into unions with exactly the same legal rights as heteros (which, I gather from your link, is not entirely the case in Germany), then it shouldn't really matter what it's called. Unfortunately, we aren't there yet.

Sorry for the derail.
posted by casu marzu at 11:32 AM on February 14, 2005


dios, if, after there are no significant legal differences in the civil and legal essentials, the hets are childish enough that they want to put a sign on their clubhouse saying "we havez a differnt name now and no gayz allowd to uze it!", then that's hunky-dory with me, as I will completely and happily ignore them while having mind-blowing orgasms with multiple partners of a variety of genders.
posted by kyrademon at 11:44 AM on February 14, 2005


What can possibly happen in a penguin's mind to try to do such a thing [attempt to hatch a rock]?

In the wild, male penguins share brooding responsibilities with the females, so attempting to "nuture" an egg-shaped object is probably wired behavior. (It seems a little sad as well.)
posted by SPrintF at 11:52 AM on February 14, 2005


So if there was gay marriage, but then heterocouples started using a new word... say "bigodlymarriage"... and started using this word for the things we traditionally call marriage, then you would demand that they let you use the bigodlymarriage name too?

If same-sex marriage becomes a reality in the U.S. (and we can dream, can't we?), the exclusive term that will come into vogue for conservative religious heteros will be "covenant marriage". I guarantee it.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:35 PM on February 14, 2005


If the thread’s subject is about German gay male penguins, how did "bush" enter the thread?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:50 PM on February 14, 2005


Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo
I do believe it
I do believe it's true

posted by Sparx at 1:23 PM on February 14, 2005


I wouldn't think you could draw many parallels at all between this example and human homosexuality--there are pretty big differences between human sexual behavior and that of penguins. Without any external physical differences between the sexes, even in their genitalia, and with the behavior of the sexes much more similar than in any human population, it's probably not much of a leap for an, um, "straight" penguin to form a mating bond with a member of the same sex. The actual act of mating isn't even very important in maintaining the pair bond in most birds: activities like resting together or mutual preening are much more important than the act of mating itself.

Also, many bird species that mate for life have a strong psychological drive to form a mating bond with something, even if it's not even a member of their own species. Most species of parrots, when kept as pets, will form pair bonds with the person who spends the most time with them--they'll get jealous when they see anyone else spending time with their "spouse", and female parrots may occasionally go through a breeding cycle and lay an unfertilized egg.

It certainly seems like less of leap for a penguin to bond with a member of the same sex than for a macaw to bond with a human.

In the wild, male penguins share brooding responsibilities with the females, so attempting to "nuture" an egg-shaped object is probably wired behavior

Yes: geese will retrieve any round objects placed near their nest and attempt to hatch them, even volleyballs.
posted by crake at 1:32 PM on February 14, 2005


So there is a market for my Chilly Willy meets Pokey slash fiction?

You know, it's eerie... I actually stumbled upon gay penguin slash fiction recently. The Internet is a strange place, indeed. (Link is arguably not all that work safe. And it's very, very odd.)
posted by Fenriss at 1:54 PM on February 14, 2005


Do these gay-rights activists have any idea how silly they sound?
posted by darren at 2:09 PM on February 14, 2005


Given the politicized nature of the issue I think that the gay-rights activists and the majority of the media that covered this issue are missing the entire point. From the Scotsman article cited in the FPP:

Humboldt penguins are considered an endangered species, which makes it all the more important that those in captivity are to reproduce.

When faced with the potential extinction of a species, wouldn't it make sense to see if the male penguins would go for the female ones?
More interestingly... Let's say you were to hypothetically apply the same scenario to our species, do you that same sex pairings would justifiable to these gay-rights activists then? (It's just a thought.)
posted by gigglesticks at 3:09 PM on February 14, 2005


Homosexual behavior has long been seen in animals and in some cases it's when the male to female ratio is very high.

It makes me wonder if (IF IF IF THEORY SPECULATION CLAIMING NOTHING DISCLAIMER) a well-executed study might find a valid link between human homosexuality and the men/women ratio in a given environment as puberty is entered...

so attempting to "nuture" an egg-shaped object is probably wired behavior. (It seems a little sad as well.)

It does seem a little sad, but humans aren't much different. No, we don't raise rocks as eggs, but we do (generally) raise cats and dogs as children. There's a good reason why pets in a household (in my experience) tend to be relatively ignored after a baby is born...

the exclusive term that will come into vogue for conservative religious heteros will be "covenant marriage".

You're likely right. Then again, people like my wife and myself (straight couple, not particularly religious) will not call ourselves that, and so the "covenant" portion will come to represent religious affiliation rather than sexual orientation. It might also serve as a convenient sign on the forehead of a given couple you've just met to say "hey, we consider ourselves superior due to our religious affiliation and our lack of tolerance." Always nice to see people like that coming.

It certainly seems like less of leap for a penguin to bond with a member of the same sex than for a macaw to bond with a human.

Indeed. Or a human of the same sex to bond with another human of the same sex. Incidentally, have you ever seen the crow and the kitten? Hilarious and heartwarming. Link here.
posted by davejay at 3:15 PM on February 14, 2005


"Gay groups insisted that penguins had a right to form couples without human interference, she said."

Okay I'm sorry, maybe you can make that argument in a natural situation (in the wild), but humans have already interfered. Without interference? Give me a break. This is ludicrous. If they don't like the lady penguins then we can talk about interfering with their sexual orientations. Anyway, even if we go with older data, what are the odds that all six male penguins are gay?
posted by dazedandconfused at 3:52 PM on February 14, 2005


So, by the logic of the activists, if someone arranged for me to go on a date on the same night I would have otherwise stayed home and masturbated, I should protest that the arrangers are infringing on my right to be an autosexual?
posted by TheSpook at 4:31 PM on February 14, 2005


I just want to be clear; I'm still OK, having sex with these penguins, right?
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:42 PM on February 14, 2005


crake: I wouldn't think you could draw many parallels at all between this example and human homosexuality--there are pretty big differences between human sexual behavior and that of penguins.

What are you talking about? Exactly the same phenomenon occurs in humans as well -- lock up a bunch of guys for a loooong period of time (prison), and they'll hook up with each other. This is all pretty well known and has been discussed at length.

The thing is that this is just a variation of the genetic disposition vs. acquired behavior discussion. There is of course no simple answer to this one -- part of the population are homosexual because of their DNA and nothing will ever change that, but another part just may exhibit homosexual behavior due to circumstances (e.g. being locked up with members of the same sex for a looong time).
The reason that those gay activists are upset (I think), is that if it turns out that those penguins can be "turned around" then this might indicate that also some human homosexuals can be turned around. This would give more ammunition to the lunatic right, who don't shy away from disowning their offspring or blathering nonsense about eternal damnation to turn them around.

But it's still kinda silly, because it is well known what's going on in prisons.
posted by sour cream at 8:01 PM on February 14, 2005


I just want to be clear; I'm still OK, having sex with these penguins, right?

So, do they give good beak?
posted by jonmc at 8:49 PM on February 14, 2005


Sexual diversity is part of nature, not just a matter of jail-like conditions in zoos. Here is the first paragraph of a magnificent scientific work, "Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity," by Bruce Bagemihl, Ph.D. (1999).

"In dimly lit undergrowth of a Central American rain forest, jewel-like male hummingbirds flit through the vegetation, pausing briefly to mate now with a male, now with a female. A whale glides through the dark and icy waters of the Arctic, then surges toward the surface in a playful frenzy of churning water and splashing, her fins and tail caressing another female. Drifting off to sleep, two male monkeys lie gently in each other's arms, cradled by one of the ancient jungles of Asia. A herd of deer picks its way cautiously through a semidesert scrub of Texas, each animal simultaneously male but not-quite-male, with half-developed, velvety antlers and diminutive, fine-boned proportions. In a protected New Zealand inlet, a pair of female gulls—mated for life—tend their chicks together. Tiny midges swarm above a bleak tundra of northern Europe, a whirlwind of mating activity as males couple with each other in midair. Circling and prancing around her partner, a female antelope courts another female in an ageless, elegant ritual staged on the African savanna."
posted by Carol Anne at 5:16 AM on February 15, 2005


Interesting find, Carol Anne, a poetic celebration of animal homosexuality by a guy who's first name is, of all things, "Bruce".
posted by sour cream at 5:51 AM on February 15, 2005


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