Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) are common shore birds across Africa, Eurasia and the Middle East. They often live in flocks and although most oystercatchers form monogamous pair bonds for breeding (you know, that story…), others have a very fun sex life.
Red deer. Cervus elaphus. Because yes, does can be lesbian, bi and they can be tops too.
[image shows: a red deer doe looking over her shoulder. She stands in an area of grass and bracken.]
Red deer are common across North Africa, Europe and Southwest Asia. They have a breeding season, aka ‘ruts’, for about a month each year and during the rest of their time, mature adults live mostly in single sex groups. It’s then, when they’re not focused on breeding, that the does have a whole lot of gay sex.
It’s pretty much the norm and about 70% of all does fuck with each other outside the rut. Around a third play exclusively with other does and the rest are bi. They are divided more or less equally into tops (‘mounters’), bottoms (‘mountees’) and versatiles. Occasionally when stags and does come together, it’s the doe who tops the stag.
Both does and stags form pair bonds with members of their own sex and does in particular will travel great distances to be with their partner, calling to her until they’re together again.
They also have some other fun gender stuff going on. Most does don’t have antlers but some do. Most stags do but some don’t. And the stags without antlers have been shown to be stronger and fitter. Scientists, unsurprisingly, have either ignored these individuals or erased them as ‘statistical anomalies’ (sound familiar?). Actually, of course, it’s gender fluidity, gender non-conformity, maybe even another couple of genders. What it certainly isn’t, is an anomaly.
Speaking of antlers…for red deer they are an erogenous zone and stags have been observed jerking off by rubbing their antlers against vegetation, sometimes getting hard and ejaculating in the process. Now you know.
West Indian Manatees, (Trichechus manatus), are large aquatic mammals that live in the Caribbean, northeastern Brazil and the southeast of North America.
Despite common assumptions about queerness in the animal kingdom, these beautiful mammals are really very gay. Male manatees of all ages commonly engage in gay sex.
And it’s a total party.
[Image shows: a manatee facing right swimming in teal coloured waters] content note: sex, genitals, ecocide.
The more I learn about Queerness in ecology, the happier it makes me. Somehow knowing that humans aren’t the only sexually and gender diverse species on this planet, just gives me hope. Clownfish, for example, who change sex several times during their lifetime. Because yes everyone, Nemo was totally trans.
Actually up to a quarter of tropical reef fish species are sequentially hermaphroditic, meaning they change sex either once, or several times during their lifetime. Orange Clownfish, these famous little fish living among the poisonous tentacles of sea anemones can change twice – from asexual juveniles to male and from male to female.
For them, size confers dominance. Bigger is better. And as females are bigger than males, they’re also more dominant. A single female and male form a cozy monogamous straight relationship (don’t worry, it won’t last forever) and live together in their poisonous anemone along with some differently sized asexual juveniles who float in on the current.
If the female dies or leaves (or like in the movie, gets eaten by a big barracuda), the male starts to buff up, put on weight and changes sex to female. That same fish then becomes the new female of the anemone and one of the juveniles sexually matures and becomes a male to take her place. And back we go to cozy monogamous straightness…
So, you know, in the realistic version of the movie, Nemo’s mom got eaten, Nemo’s dad became his new mom and agender Nemo transitioned to male and married her. Really, I can’t imagine why they changed it…
As a trans woman and an ecologist, I find queerness in non-human nature a profoundly important subject. I can’t count the number of hours I’ve laid in the bath reading Biological Exuberance (Bruce Bagemihl) or Evolution’s Rainbow (Joan Roughgarden) – there’s something about knowing that there are lesbian lizards in the world and orgies of gay manatees and polyamorous oystercatchers and trans clownfish and bisexual red deer and masturbating baboons and kissing zebras that just gives me hope.