Gay Pets Unleashed
Nature or anthropomorphism?
Monday, April 19th, 2010
In a world filled with both straight and gay humans, it would seem to make perfect sense for animals to follow suit. This sort of logic often prevails when we see male dogs wearing knit sweaters and bedazzled collars. After watching the episode of South Park when I was seven, I decided that Bailey, my two-year-old border collie-spitz mutt, was gay. He was very intimate with Max, a domineering Jack Russell terrier who lived next door. There was also something in his trot that exuded sassiness and flamboyancy in a way very dissimilar to how your average German shepherd walks.
There is no way of knowing if my dog is gay, if only because he can't express it to me in words. The idea of gay pets is a feat of human sexual culture, a symbol of our progress in accepting homosexuals in society. It suggests that we're moving towards viewing homosexuality as perfectly natural. Since many of us are guilty of assigning human emotions to our pets (i.e. Bailey is the Woody Allen of dogs. Very neurotic, argumentative, erudite), it seems only fitting that we would dream up romantic and sexual lives for them as well.
The concept of gay animals, however, is not just a product of excessive anthropomorphism. Ornithologists have proved it with science. The New York Times magazine recently published a story that focused the debates surrounding homosexual animals and on Laysan albatrosses, seabirds that often incubate their eggs in same-sex pairs. They appear to do all that heterosexual pairs do, besides have sex. The female pairs stay together for years, rearing children and protecting their nests like any married couple. The Times wrote, "As the biologist Marlene Zuk explains, we are hard-wired to read all animal behavior as 'some version of the way people do things' and animals as 'blurred, imperfect copies of humans.'" How else could we view the birds' relationships but in human terms?
It's easy to pass judgments on animals when, in actuality, some species are prone to homosexual behavior. In the animal world, homosexuality entails two male penguins raising a chick together. For humans, sexuality informs personality. This is why "gaydar" exists; we sometimes think we can tell if somebody is gay by the way they act, strictly based on stereotypes. But two female albatrosses incubating an egg together, or intertwining their long necks in the shape of a heart, is not parallel to my dog's stereotypically flamboyant strut. Gay animals in the wild don't give off the sorts of gay vibes that we're most familiar with.
As a self-diagnosed animal lover who tends to have too many in-depth conversations with her dog, it is my responsibility to acknowledge that, at the end of the day, it makes no difference if house pets demonstrate queer behavior. Our love for gay pets reflects our love for gay humans. So go ahead and clip that hot pink bow to your male bichon frise's ear. You're quietly supporting the gay community.
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