Authors are seldom neutral to begin with. For example, the authors of the book, “And Tango Makes Three”, are hardly unbiased when they wrote their book. They clearly intended to communicate a certain message. It is a message that promotes same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. This is a message that would certainly raise eyebrows.
Though the book does not outrightly write that the penguins are homosexuals, all kids reading it will certainly imply it that way. That is the innocence of children, and also the problem. The two male penguins are shown to be in love each other like how male and female penguins are. Certainly, the concept of homosexuality where “a same-sex can fall in romantic love with a same-sex” stands out as its central theme.
While an adult like me who is well-informed about the issue of homosexuality and is discerning enough to evaluate the message will ask a question like, “are the penguins really homosexual?”, children can hardly be expected to go that far. Children might simply accept that the penguins are homosexuals.
And this perhaps, is the exact intended outcome the authors wished for.
Even adults reading this could be wondering: Why am I even questioning the homosexual orientation of the penguins? Isn’t it obvious? You may think. This precisely is the problem I wish to highlight. As far as some parents like to believe that they are informed enough to educate their children about homosexuality, they could be far from it.
The penguins are not homosexuals.
I can only go as far as to agree that the penguins exhibit an “apparent homosexual relationship”, but much needs to be proven before we can confirm that each of the penguins are homosexuals. Two critical questions that we should ask include, “did the penguins definitively choose a same-sex partner for sexual relations even when they have the choice of mating with a different-sex partner?” “Have we observed longitudinally that the penguin’s mating choice is always that of a same-sex partner?”
If we do not have an affirmative answer to both questions, we are far from making a conclusion that the animal has an exclusive, in-born, homosexual orientation.
Much has been touted about how it is observed that animals like rabbits, cows or dogs have a tendency to mount on each other, even those of the same-sex, displaying seemingly a “homosexual orientation”, but such a conclusion is unproven. Instead, the animals probably do not have an exclusive same-sex preference but are simply acting on impulse – they simply jump on anyone or anything being animals without a reasonable ability of self-control and a good sense of rationality. I mean, haven’t you had any experience with your friend’s domesticated dogs? Ask them!
Even the New Mexico Whiptail lizards, which apparently exhibit homosexual behavior by having offsprings from two females, exhibit not a homosexual orientation, but parthogenesis, as there are no males in the species. This, like that of those fishes which amazingly have the ability to change their sex, points more to the marvel of creation and nature, rather than an in-born homosexual orientation in animals. Unlike the New Mexico lizards, we know that same-sex couples can never give birth by natural means. We also learnt that sex-change is a procedure that harms a human soul and health more than it helps. The marvels of nature are clearly many cuts above the claims made by man.
Unknown to many, homosexuality in animals is a hotly debated issue. It is certainly not scientific and proven. It was first widely discussed when researcher and author Bruce Bagemihl published in 1999, his book Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity. However, note this telling quote from even a liberal source like Wikipedia:
“Bagemihl writes that the presence of same-sex sexual behavior was not ‘officially’ observed on a large scale until the 1990s due to possible observer bias caused by social attitudes towards LGBT people making the homosexual theme taboo.”
I beg to differ with Bagemihl’s opinion. Alfred Kinsey had kick started the ball rolling on taboo topics quite successfully since 1948. Sexual revolution was already in full swing by the 1970s and the APA had also removed homosexuality from the DSM in 1973. Point is, over so many decades, zoologists have actually not made the observation that homosexual orientation is clearly evident in animals. Bagemihl’s enormous claims in his book that homosexuality is observed in 1500 species has to be met with caution that observation of homosexuality does not necessarily mean or provide proof of natural, in-born homosexual orientation.
It is hence most interesting that of all people, it is Simon Levay, an infamous homosexual geneticist, who tellingly said this from his extensive studies,
“though homosexual behavior is very common in the animal world, it seems to be very uncommon that individual animals have a long-lasting predisposition to engage in such behavior to the exclusion of heterosexual activities. Thus, a homosexual orientation, if one can speak of such thing in animals, seems to be a rarity.”
Simon Levay adds on:
“One species in which exclusive homosexual orientation occurs, however, is that of domesticated sheep. About 10% of rams (males) refuse to mate with ewes (females) but do readily mate with other rams.”
The qualification that Levay gave is most important to note. Only domesticated sheep rared by man is noted by him to exhibit homosexuality. One wonders why it is only domesticated sheep rather than wild sheep or all sheep. Could nurture have messed with nature? There seem to be no other explanations I can think of.
“Properly speaking, homosexuality does not exist among animals…. For reasons of survival, the reproductive instinct among animals is always directed towards an individual of the opposite sex. Therefore, an animal can never be homosexual as such. Nevertheless, the interaction of other instincts (particularly dominance) can result in behavior that appears to be homosexual. Such behavior cannot be equated with an animal homosexuality. All it means is that animal sexual behavior encompasses aspects beyond that of reproduction.”
So how about the penguins? It is important to note that Roy and Silo, the two male penguins in the centre of the controversy, have never been seen to be involved in a sex act. This should have been blatant to the authors, that it might not be a homosexual orientation to begin with. It could be a pure friendship bond; two male buddies having great exploratory fun; extended teenhood; late development; personalities etc. Sounds like dubious suggestions? Great. Now your mind is thinking. The point of the matter is, we don’t know much about these animals, until we are able to study their brain extensively and conclusively. Everything is just a guess. Now you get the picture?
I leave you with the following excerpt from the National Post:
“Roy and Silo eventually split when Silo became interested in a female penguin… A 2010 study of penguin homosexuality by France’s Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology concluded that penguin homosexuality is widespread, but rarely last longer than a few years.”
Children books that require no supervision? Neutral book that needs no caution? Parents informed enough to impart? Think again.
I wouldn’t mind talking about homosexuality to my child. In fact, I know I have to. However, the integrity of the manner my child is first introduced to this topic is of critical importance. It is out of the question that a public library should be the place to introduce such to my children.
PS; This post does not advocate that hence, human behaviour should be based on what we observe in the animal kingdom. Far from it. There is documented proof of cannibalism and rape in the animal kingdom, but that doesn’t make it right for humans.