Hmm. Tell me you’re definitely not a biologist without telling me you’re not a biologist.
The “it’s unnatural” argument is a regular refrain among homophobic people looking to delegitimize queer folks. They look to the animal kingdom to “prove” that homosexuality is unnatural. They say that since two people of the same sex can’t procreate, that it must be unnatural for two people of the same sex to form a romantic or sexual bond. They claim that animal behavior proves that everything animals do — including human animals — leads to a single, immutable goal: procreation. Two people of the same sex can’t mate! What about babies?!
Besides the fact that plenty of animals do in fact engage in “gay” activities, um… since when did we make animal behavior the benchmark for human behavior and moral code? That’s a super weird thing to do, y’all.
You won’t find me mindlessly dry-humping my nonbinary partner while a giggling onlooker makes a TikTok video out of it. Because we’re not animals. We may try to exit the company of others as quickly as possible in order to go get it on in private, but ditching social situations to go have sex is a decidedly human behavior.
We don’t use the animal kingdom to inform our social norms. If we did, we’d be sniffing each other’s asses, occasionally chucking our own feces at one another, and eating our young.
A recent video on TikTok pointed out the absurdity of using the “it’s unnatural” argument against homosexuality.
“Since when did animals start providing us with our moral standards?” the man in the video asks. “Especially in the area of sex. Think about that next time you’re humping some stranger’s leg.”
When we respond to the it’s-unnatural-just-look-at-the-animal-kingdom argument, the tendency is to cite examples of same-sex sexual behavior or sex-changing behavior from animals. There’s certainly plenty of them. There are over 500 species of fish who can flip gender at will. Among humans, there is considerable biological sexual variation — a naturally occurring spectrum of sex, and that’s before we talk about the spectrum of gender, which occurs in the brain, not with chromosomes.
The animal world is rife with examples of same-sex sexual behavior. Female Japanese macaques engage in same-sex sexual behavior. So do giraffes, dolphins, and many other species. In recent years, evolutionary biologists have posited that the reason we see so much same-sex sexual behavior in the animal kingdom is because the traits that distinguished one sex from the other likely evolved around the same time as sexual behavior. In order to procreate effectively, it made sense to mate indiscriminately.
It probably goes without saying that the people who employ the “it’s unnatural” argument have zero knowledge of biology or evolution or how chromosomes work. More likely they are simply parroting something they saw on a Facebook meme or heard some other bigot say and thought it sounded reasonable. (Parrots can be gay too, by the way.)
And while it’s tempting — logical, even — to form a rebuttal to “but it’s unnatural” homophobia using some of the examples I cited above, it’s not something we need to do. Humans may technically be animals, but our social machinations are a world away from those of all other animals. We are the only animal whose social code is shaped by morality, conscience, and self-awareness. Anyone using the animal kingdom to defend their homophobia knows this, or is at least aware of the behavioral gulf that exists between humans and animals. In fact, the same people who resort to this argument would probably get offended that I just called humans animals.
Indeed, the “it’s unnatural” defense for homophobia is especially hypocritical coming from religious folks who deny much of what science tells us about the natural world, instead favoring creationism. Christian fundamentalists often talk about humans in the context of being completely separate from animals — created in God’s image. Humans have dominion over animals. In most Christian interpretations of the Bible, humans go to heaven and animals don’t.
And yet the people most likely to hold up animal behavior as a benchmark for human mating habits often call themselves Christian. They don’t believe in evolution and yet they’ll cite what scientists call an evolutionary paradox as one of the primary foundations of their bigotry. Make it make sense.
Among humans, the statistical probability is that the majority won’t transition from one gender to another and will mate with the opposite sex. But it’s also perfectly natural for variations outside of these statistical norms to exist, just as they exist in the animal kingdom, and yet we don’t need to use the animal kingdom to defend this.
Ultimately, it’s fucking weird to look at the animal kingdom to provide us with our moral and social compass. Humanity would benefit greatly across the board if we could simply accept and celebrate the beautiful variation that exists within the human experience, without resorting to comparing ourselves to giraffes.