Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Getting Along Just Swimmingly, Thank You Very Much

I enjoy bird-watching, and I visit the same locations a few times each week on my birding travels. At one nearby lake, I often observe a particular pair of Mallard ducks that are obviously mated and have formed a close pair bond. (I have watched them for about three years, and yes, one can learn to recognize individual wild birds.) They display typical mallard courtship behavior and spend all their time together, feeding, resting, and sleeping side by side. I always see them close together, just as I see other mated pairs. They natter their bills about together and swim about side by side, heads closely together.

So, why am I telling you this?

Because both of these ducks are males.

There are plenty of female mallards around, some of them “single,” so it does not appear to be a matter of availability. I recognize that an anecdote is not the same as data, but a quick search of the literature reveals that this case is not an anomaly, particularly among ducks. (You can search this out easily, too: just google homosexual animals and you can find several links to peer-reviewed scientific literature that documents this.)

I have also carefully observed the male-female pairs in this large flock of mallards, and watched how they behave in relation to this particular pair. None of the male-female pairs seems the least ruffled over their gay neighbors. They simply carry on and live peaceably together. (That's a picture of them, at left.) The male-female pairs don’t seem to be suffering any stress or threat to their established pair bonds. I have not seen this pair copulate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. And I have never observed either of the gay mallards trying to force copulation or other same-sex behavior in the “straight” male ducks or in any of the offspring of the other ducks. They don’t have a “gay agenda,” they are not pedophiles, they are not trying to control the flock. Their relationship does not undermine the social structure of the flock or “threaten” the heterosexual relationships of the mixed-gender mated pairs.

Nature is rich with variety. To my admittedly unscientific mind, sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression is not binary; it’s more like a continuum, with an infinity of varieties along the way. It’s all “natural” and cannot be labeled right or wrong. It just is. (In humans, we do have one other important requirement: consent.)

And frankly, it’s not that important whether your neighbor loves a man or a woman or what they do in private. What is far more important is that each person enjoys equal rights and opportunities, and is able to live a life free from discrimination, fear, and oppression, and that we are all good neighbors for and with each other.

Homophobes seem to focus disproportionately on sexual acts (projections from the closet? Just listen to their rants!) and disregard relationships, families, and the more important issues of human rights, civil rights and social/legal equality for all people.

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