As humans, we tend to associate nature with what is familiar to us, and label our own opinions as… “natural”! When it comes to sexuality, the average person translates it into a biological, heterosexual, cisgender relationship, considering it the “natural” way. But what does nature itself have to say about all this?
Taking a look at the broader spectrum of life around us, we can see that nature has ensured an incredible range of (sexual) diversity. However, our understanding of animal queerness is limited. Science was long been influenced by conservative mindsets, and has primarily followed heteronormative interpretations. Therefore the exploration of non “normal” sexualities in animals has been denied or misinterpreted in research. For instance, the relationships between male penguins, which serve as symbols of homosexual connections, in science were portrayed as examples of monogamy and Christian family values.
Sexuality across the animal kingdom
It’s not just penguins. Homosexual behaviours are observed throughout the animal kingdom. Extensive studies confirm homosexuality in 500 species, with observation made in up to 1500 ones, including mammals, fishes, and insects. Interestingly the more recently evolved animals tend to be gayer. Within bats alone, homosexual preferences have been identified in 22 species!
However, when we talk about diversity…we truly mean it! In the animal kingdom (which humans are a part of) we can encounter:
Hermaphroditism; Some animals own both sexual organs on their body, such as deep sea fishes of the family Aulopiloformes.
Gender fluidity; certain animals that switch genders according to the environmental conditions. For instance, the bluehead wrass fish undergoes gender transformations, which include different look, colour palette, and sexual preferences.
Parthenogenesis or solo reproduction; Some species of reptiles can reproduce asexually, laying healthy eggs without the need of male fertilisation.
Attraction beyond the same species; the reasons for this behaviour are yet to be clarified. Perhaps to widen the spectrum of choices? To have more access to pleasure? However, examples include the Atlantic furry seal’s strong preference to penguin emperors. Also, female livebearers (I.e., Carassius gibelio) mate with other species of fish, to “borrow” their sperm for fertilising their eggs, only to get rid of it thereafter.
Given these examples, which “natural” sexuality do people refer to?
Nature is evidently encompassing sexualities out of the binary system of man-woman. This can be our magic lens to perceive the diverse and ultra-queer world around us. Since 1994, there has been a term that bridges the gap between nature and human sexual perception. I’m talking about queer ecology - an approach that recognises fluidity and diversity of sexual orientations beyond the confines of heteronormative paradigm.
It is a significant step to stop “humanising” / projecting our human perspective onto anything we see. Just because we, Homo Sapiens reproduce in a particular manner, does not invalidate other sexualities among humans or animals. Let’s move away from the belief of a singular "natural" and instead embrace the natural sexualities that exist. In the end we are merely a part of a much larger whole;
A truly diverse whole, in which heterosexuality, homosexuality, and gender fluidity are all natural.