It got me thinking that perhaps some homosexual behavior in animals is really transexual behavior. Does an animal what its own sex? How? My weak zoological understanding is the reason animals smell each others genitals is to determine what sex it is and if it's thus available for mating; animals recognize each other almost entirely based on smell and little on sight. If they use smell to recognize genitals, then how do they recognize their own genitals? Perhaps their own genitals have the smell of the opposite sex so their same-sex partners appear to them as opposite sex. Or, perhaps they don't perceive their own smell at all (my experience washing cats suggests this) and their brain simply identifies as their opposite sex.
Favorite quote: "Those who attempt to limit nature, limit God."
A Third Sex Around the World
Just as there are many incredible displays of sex and gender variety among Hindu deities, so also nature displays an amazing array of sex and gender diversity within the animal kingdom. The simplistic notion of a Noah’s Ark, with one male and one female specimen sustaining all species, is a far cry from scientific reality. In truth, biological sustenance and reproduction are dependent upon an incredibly complex web of co-dependent factors, including a third sex. Not only is nature more complex than we imagine, it is more complex than we can imagine!
Microbes and simple life forms are, of course, either asexual or hermaphrodite, meaning they reproduce without separate dimorphic divisions of male and female. Many plants can reproduce themselves simply by the severance of a root, twig, or other appendage, and nearly all flowering plants are hermaphrodite with sexual organs (flowers) that have both male and female parts. Worms, slugs and many aquatic species are also hermaphrodite—they possess both eggs and sperm that are mutually exchanged. In the insect world, reproduction occurs mainly through dimorphic male and female methods, yet many of the more developed social species such as bees, ants and termites sustain their colonies through large numbers of asexual or sterile workers. In such insect colonies, the asexual workers and reproductive queens and drones are all co-dependent upon one another for survival.
Scientific studies of homosexual behavior among fruit flies are quite well known; scientists have observed this behavior in nature and can also induce it in individuals through the manipulation of their genes. Homosexual behavior has similarly been observed in insects such as moths, butterflies and beetles, and intersexed examples of butterflies and spiders have been found that are sexually divided in half, with one side male and one side female (gynandromorphism). Among the millions of Monarch Butterflies found mating in central Mexico, 10 percent of the mating pairs are same-sex male couples—with an even higher ratio of 50 percent by the end of the season!
Creatures such as sow bugs, shrimp and oysters completely reverse their sex at some stage in their lives and such transsexuality is a routine occurrence for many species. Tropical coral fish, for instance, are especially well known for their ability to change sex—more than 50 species of parrotfish, groupers, angelfish and others are all transsexual. Their reproductive organs can undergo a complete reversal, enabling females with fully functioning ovaries to become males with fully functioning testes and vice versa. In some families of fish, transsexuality is so common that it’s actually more unusual to find species that do not change sex!
Among amphibians and reptiles, certain species are known to reproduce both sexually and asexually. Female geckos, salamanders and Whiptail Lizards, for example, are parthenogenetic (able to clone themselves) and can reproduce without help from males. Biologists have identified over a thousand of such parthenogenetic species worldwide. Among snakes, both homosexual and bisexual behavior has been observed and studied. Most animals attract and find partners primarily through pheromone or scent signals and when snakes or other animals are homosexually attracted they are simply following these natural signals. In some species such as Garter Snakes, certain males will produce the female pheromone, thus adding to the complexity!
In birds and mammals, methods of reproduction are consistently dimorphic but social interaction and behaviors such as courting, mating and nesting become increasingly diverse. It is among these species, therefore, that the greatest amount of homosexual, bisexual and transgender behavior is found. Homosexuality among avian species is quite common and has been observed in nearly all bird families including waterfowl, sea birds, penguins, parrots, songbirds, finches, swallows, sparrows, crows, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, game birds, birds of prey, flightless birds and so on. Birds are similar to humans in the sense that they typically mate and nest in pairs. Thus, homosexual birds also court each other, pair off, mate and build nests together. Quite a few also become involved in raising chicks—penguins, swans, flamingos, parrots, songbirds, gulls and others have all been observed taking eggs or finding hatchlings to rear as their own. Some birds also engage in same-sex group behavior. In Mallard Ducks, for instance, where homosexuality and bisexuality are quite common, “gay” drakes socialize primarily among themselves and form what biologists refer to as “clubs.” Other birds are transgender—certain female Hooded Warblers can be found bearing the markings and singing voices of males while in other species, such as Ochre-bellied Flycatchers, certain males will mimic the courting behavior of female birds to attract other males. Such types of transgender birds (with mixed gender markings and behavior) are commonly observed by ornithologists and referred to as “marginal” males or females. Intersex conditions are also found among avian species and over forty cases of gynandromorphism, wherein birds have split male and female plumage, have been reported in species such as pheasants, falcons, and finch. In some types of birds, significant portions of the population never mate or reproduce; for instance, twenty-five percent of Long-tailed Hermit Hummingbirds remain single and nonreproductive throughout their lives, and as much as one third of Common Murres (a seabird) and Kestrels (a type of falcon) do the same.
Among mammal species, homosexual, bisexual and transgender behavior is even more common and has been documented among small rodents and insectivores (mice, rats, bats, squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, hedgehogs, etc.); marsupials (wallabies, kangaroo, koalas, dunnarts, etc.); carnivores (lions, cheetahs, wolves, foxes, bears, hyenas, mongooses, martens, raccoons, etc.); hoofed mammals (deer, elk, caribou, moose, giraffes, antelopes, gazelles, pronghorns, wild sheep, goats, buffalo, bison, musk-oxen, zebra, horses, pigs, llamas, elephants, rhinoceros, etc.), marine mammals (river and salt-water dolphins, porpoises, Orcas, whales, seals, sea lions, walruses, manatees, dugongs, etc.) and primates (Bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, Orangutans, gibbons, langurs, Proboscis Monkeys, macaques, baboons, Squirrel Monkeys, capuchins, tamarins, langurs, bushbabies, etc.).
Homosexuality in mammals is quite complex and has been well studied both in captivity and in the wild. Bonobos (Pygmy Chimpanzees), for example, have been found to exhibit a wide variety of different homosexual behaviors and emotions, and in small mammals such as mice and rats, scientists can induce homosexual behavior through the manipulation of their hormones during gestation. Bisexuality is very common among mammals and has been observed in many species outside of their normal breeding season such as Walruses, Bottlenose Dolphins, Bison, Bighorn Sheep, Giraffes, etc. Transgender behavior can also be observed among mammals—in Bighorn Sheep, some rams identify as female and herd themselves with the ewes. While Bighorn rams typically engage in homosexual behavior all year long, the transgender rams will only allow themselves to be mounted during the mating season when the “other” ewes are in estrus!
Many varieties of intersex conditions are found in mammals such as primates, bears, whales, dolphins, marsupials, rodents, insectivores and others, and quite a few mammal species have large numbers of individuals that are nonreproductive and never breed. For instance, more than fifty percent of American Bison and Right Whales, 75 percent of Blackbucks and Giraffes, and 80-95 percent of New Zealand Sea Lions and Northern Elephant Seals never mate or reproduce with the opposite sex throughout their entire lives.
Ratios of heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual animals vary from species to species and in many cases the homosexual populations of animals exceed those found in humans. Human populations are roughly estimated to be 80 percent heterosexual, 15 percent bisexual and 5 percent homosexual (80-15-5), but among animals these ratios can differ considerably. Female Silver Gulls, for example, have been found to have a ratio of 79-11-10, respectively, while male Black-headed Gulls have a ratio of 63-15-22 and Galahs (a type of cockatoo), 44-11-44.
There are so many examples of gender-variant creatures in the animal kingdom that it is impossible to do them justice here. Why such creatures exist or what purpose they serve may be debatable or even beyond our understanding, but clearly the natural world, when put under the microscope, is amazingly diverse. Biological life is so exuberant it seems to diversify at every possible opportunity and in every conceivable way, thus reflecting the very nature of Godhead itself.
Those who attempt to limit nature, limit God. In scientific journals from the nineteenth century, early zoologists typically imposed their own homophobia on the animal kingdom. While praising the mating of heterosexual creatures as “beautiful representations of God’s glory,” they simultaneously condemned the homosexual behavior they witnessed among animals as “unnatural” and “so monstrous as to be unworthy of record.” Initially, many zoologists tried to explain away homosexuality in the animal kingdom, hypothesizing that the creatures were simply deprived of opposite sex partners, mimicking heterosexual behavior, reacting to artificial environments, defective in some way, confused, or so on. All such rationalizations, however, have since been disproved and unbiased research into the animal kingdom has disclosed to modern biologists what indigenous cultures of the world have known all along—that nature is awe-inspiring and inconceivably variegated in terms of sex and gender.
Edit: The source is http://www.galva108.org/aroundtheworld.html