Whether you’ve found yourself on this page as an ally or as a troll, the truth remains: Nature Is Queer. It always has been, always will be, and no amount of biblical spewage or pseudoscientific innuendos will change that.
Oftentimes, antagonistic discourse will use the terms “nature” and “natural” to justify the ostracization and the “otherness” of those in the Queer community; yet concrete, scientific evidence shows that not only do animals exhibit homosexuality, but that the existence of this behavior is prevalent, and may even bestow certain evolutionary advantages.
Our existence and the natural environment aren’t dichotic, they are intrinsic, and situated in paradox, variance, and flux. Our own construction of the word “nature” and the connotation we imbue it with is – in its very self – unnatural. We are not separate from nature, we are nature, and, (say it with me), nature is Queer!
What is inarguably unnatural is the rage, violence, and hate that results from witnessing, or simply acknowledging, the affection and authenticity amongst humans. Such strong and odious responses may encourage one to take a deeper look at the capitalist (and undeniably and intrinsically, evangelical) agendas their animosity is perpetuating.
However, if you won’t take my thoroughly researched and factually based assessment, then surely, who can deny the adorable, fluffy (some slimy and scaly) faces found in nature expressing their authentic selves? Traipse with me to five different continents, and meet five different creatures who answer to no one, and live their best, unrestricted lives!
Asia: Japanese Macaques – The Queer Queens
The epitome of “unbothered,” these primates embody the true essence of sexual liberation. Over 20 years of research has indicated, repeatedly, that female Macaques homosexual behavior is sexually motivated. Furthermore, these ladies will sometimes engage in same-sex sexual activity even when motivated, opposite-sex suitors are available – and lesbihonest, we get it. Within this context, male Macaques have to compete inter-sexually for opportunities to mate with females on top of the intra-sexual competition that is already required.
Not far from the towns of Shibu and Yudanaka, these glorious Snow Monkeys can be found soaking in the natural hot springs at the Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑, Jigokudani Yaen Kōen). Although the park is open year-round, the best time to see them in action is between January and February. However, a visit should be approached with careful consideration. While the Japanese Macaques are classified as being “Least Concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of endangered species, they’re still facing serious threats. Habitat loss, poaching, and trapping them to be used in biomedical research is putting their population at severe risk. Thankfully, the island of Yakushima was designated as a World Heritage site in 1993 to protect native species, yet tourism on the island has also increased resulting in mixed effects. If a trip to Japan is on your list, be sure to do some research to make sure your tourism dollars go towards protecting these Queer Queens!
North America: Banana Slug – Born This Way
Keep your salt and your sexism away from these slimy wonders. Banana slugs are the second largest of terrestrial slug species, and are the ultimate testament to Miss Independent (that’s why we love her). Born with both male and female genitalia, the only characteristic sought out in a mate is finding one of a similar size – otherwise, banana slugs have been known to impregnate themselves! If mating is the move, the pair will get in a yin-yang formation (I mean c’mon, the symbolism!) and insert their penises (located on their heads) to impregnate each other. Fun!
Head to any one of the impressive temperate forests in North America’s Pacific Northwest, and the banana slug can surely be found meandering the wet, cool floors. Growing up to 9 inches long, these slugs are also one of the slowest moving creatures on Earth, averaging an impressive pace of 6.5 inches per minute. Universally known for their slime, scientists have studied their mucousy magic and have been able to produce several new medical glues, including an adhesive that can bond to bloody, moving tissue. What’s more, these slugs are essential and vital to healthy ecosystems – by decomposing organic matter, the slugs recycle this food source into nutrient-dense waste, which fertilizes healthy soil.
Australia: Clown Fish – Androgynousy Fishy
It could be argued that Marlin from Finding Nemo is Disney’s first transexual character (but don’t tell Disney, or else they’ll just use it to further their “Rainbow Capitalist” agenda). In the matriarchal society of clown fish, when the dominant female dies the dominant male will sex-change into a female, and the non-dominant male will change into a dominant male. The responsibility for caring for the eggs then becomes the “new” female’s job. This is referred to as “sequential hermaphrodites,” meaning they are all born male, and later turn into females. No legislation, discrimmination, or religion involved… must be nice.
In the land down unda, be sure to schedule time for a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the reef is home to over 9,000 different species – including the clownfish. Clownfish survive in a mutually symbiotic relationship with anemone – the anemone protect the clownfish from predators and provide food scraps, and in return the clownfish uses its bright colors to lure fish into the anemone where they are killed by the anemone’s poison and eaten. This incredibly unique and dynamic relationship is just one of thousands of intricacies found in the Great Barrier Reef – but they’re in hot water, literally. Rising sea temperature has led to ocean acidification, resulting in massive coral and species die-offs. One of the single best ways you can help in the conservation of the reef is by going to see it – every visitor to the reef pays an Environmental Management Charge which goes directly towards the day-to-day management of the Marine Park, as well as towards funding for research looking to improve its long-term resilience. You can find other ways to actively support the Great Barrier Reef here.
South America: Amazon Dolphins – The Bawdy Boto
The Amazon dolphin, or the pink river dolphin, is a toothed whale that inhabits the freshwater tributaries of several South American countries. These sex-positive pods engage in non-reproductive sexual behaviors irregardless of their partner’s biological sex, and they do this frequently. One pod of Amazon river dolphins was even observed engaging in homosexual group sex. It’s thought that these intimate bonds help to prevent combative behavior toward one another later on in their lives, since the bonds observed between older males are extremely strong and long-lasting. Now there’s an idea for dismantling toxic masculinity.
Believed to possess magical powers by locals, the boto is now a critically endangered species with a population somewhere in the thousands. This means that their population has dwindled 94% since 2000, and the two major contributors to this are pollution and poaching. Dams have fragmented habitats, contaminated rivers and lakes have polluted their waters, fishing nets snag and injure, and poachers use the dolphins as bait. Repopulating the Amazon river dolphin is no small feat, either – mother’s pregnancies last 13 months, and they nurse for two years. As a result, females can only reproduce every three to five years. Several organizations have stepped up recently to assist in protecting these salient creatures through research, education, and collaboration with local residents.
Africa: Bonobos – The Gay Cousin
And lastly we bring you the bonobo, the closest-to-home example you’ll get in the “wild.” Bonobos share nearly 99% of their DNA with humans, and dare I say they may be the more evolved species when it comes to sex-positivity. Known as the “make love, not war” primate, many researchers have come to understand that bonobos use sex to resolve conflicts between individuals. What’s more, nearly all bonobos are bisexual, and 75% of all bonobo sex is nonreproductive. Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Liverpool, expands on this stating, “The bottom line is that anything that happens in other primates… is likely to have strong evolutionary continuity with what happens in humans.” Louder for the creationists, homophobes, and legislators in the back, please!
Wild bonobos can only be found in forests south of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A matriarchal society, bonobo groups tend to be much more peaceful than our patriarchal chimpanzee relatives (duh). Dr. Richard Carroll, the Vice President of WWF’s Africa Program, elaborates on their immeasurable importance and mystique, “Bonobos are fascinating creatures and little understood. They have the only great ape society led by females, with a sophisticated social structure that encourages cooperation and peace.” Poaching, habitat loss, and civil unrest have all posed serious threats to the bonobo population, thus the Congolese people are the ultimate stewards of the bonobo habitat. The Bonobo Conservation Initiative and partners work to provide livelihood programs, educational opportunities, health care, and more to Congolese communities in order to spread awareness about these vulnerable and vital relatives.
Diverse, dynamic, nonconforming, and Queer. Nature is Queer. Articulately and succinctly summarized by Priya Suberwal, “Queerness in ecology is a concept broader than sexuality or gender identity. It is an all-encompassing wink to weirdness in the more-than-human world and serves as an alternative to the binary and reductive modes of thought in which so many of us have been trained.” Thus LGBTQ+ existence is not a unique expression in the natural world, and ergo, not a unique expression in humanity.
Here at ecomadic we appreciate that wildlife comes in a variety of expressions, just like humans. As a collective society, we have been simplifying and detaching from a world that is constantly in flux and rearranging, and this shortsightedness has seeped into many of our world-views. After all, there is nothing more queer than nature, and nothing more natural than love.
ecomadic is a sustainable tourism brand that empowers travelers to make more conscious decisions. By curating a marketplace to easily find and identify responsible businesses to support, and providing educational publications through our online green travel magazine, ecomadic is committed to helping empower travelers make responsible choices throughout their journeys.
Want to learn more?
Nothing More Queer Than Nature – Ted Talks
Sexuality Outside the Human World – ecomadic
Is Nature Queer? – Challenging Normative Ideas Around Ecology – Feminism in India
[Opinion]: Commodification of Outdoor Recreation – ecomadic
The Experiment Podcast: ‘Evangelical’ Is Not a Religious Identity. It’s a Political One. – The Atlantic
Female homosexual behavior and inter-sexual mate competition in Japanese macaques: Possible implications for sexual selection theory – Science Direct
Japanese Macaque – IUCN Red List
How LGBTQ Month became a branded holiday – Vox
10 sex-changing animals that don’t adhere to gender roles – All That’s Interesting
Clown Anemonefishes – Marine Bio
Ocean Acidification: How Our Seas are Being Threatened – ecomadic
The critically endangered pink river dolphin – Business Insider
Celebrating Pride in the Animal Kingdom – Wildlife Conservation Network
Bonobo – World Wildlife Fund
Bonobo Conservation Initiative – Bonobo Conservation Initiative
Homosexual Behavior Among Animals Stirs Debate – National Geographic
Queer Ecology – The Years Project