Smacks and slaps to every cretin in Shiloh, IL, who’s crapping whole yellow apples over the eh-maybe children’s book And Tango Makes Three, a book controversial enough that it even has an online teaching guide to cover its delicate discussion about…
Oh … yeah, and smacks and slaps to the book’s authors, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for writing a book about…
A book about gay penguins.
No, really. All of you. Knock it off and pay attention for a minute. I’ll get to you in order.
Good citizens of Shiloh, who are in a tizzy because there’s a book out there — based on the true story of a pair of male penguins at the New York zoo who had the temerity to shack up and then adopt — y’all need to settle down just a little bit.
I know your goddish ways don’t work well with reality. I know you’re uncomfortable dealing with facts. I know that when you see homosexual-style behavior occurring in nature, it guts your argument that homosexuality is unnatural.
But you can untwist your undies, and here’s why. The penguins are not gay.
And they damned sure aren’t the couple being portrayed in Richardson and Parnell’s cute little book.
For one thing, the suggestion that these animals are in love is a bit over the top. These are birds. They do not bring chocolates on the first date (though, to a penguin, regurgitated fish might be more appealing), and they do not listen to the blues when their pengie SO dumps them after catching them in bed with a puffin from up Baffin Bay way.
I know there are intelligent birds out there; penguins are not among them. I know there are birds which mate for life; again, penguins are not among them.
And as to their adoption — they didn’t go and pick up an egg from the New York Department of Antarctic Waterfowl Social Services; there was an extra that needed nurturing, so it was given to the male couple to nurture and hatch. (They — the penguins — had initially been trying to incubate a rock that sort of looked like an egg. I’ll come back to why this is significant in a minute.)
How can I be so certain the penguins aren’t gay, when they’ve coupled up, live together as a breeding pair, have made at least one attempt at penguin gay sex, and raised an adopted chick?
Simple. Being gay, like being in love, is a human concept. It doesn’t apply anywhere else in the animal kingdom.
As far as we can tell, we’re the only animals that introspect, that question motivations, that assign meaning to our behaviors. So if Adam moves in with Steve, he’s going to have to explain why to Eve — which means he’ll have to think about it, and he’ll eventually reach the conclusion that he’s gay. (Or the Edenic equivalent thereof — a flaming swordsman, perhaps?)
Of course if he’s living in ancient Greek society, what he’ll do instead is keep Eve around and boff Steve at the symposium, and not have to explain a damned thing to anyone, because the Greeks didn’t have a word for homosexual. Which means they didn’t have a concept for it either.*
Or maybe it’s the ’60s and they all just decide to have a love-in.
Do you see? In denying the “gayhood” of these penguins, I’m not fueling the claims of Einsatzgruppen-ÜberKristians; I’m undermining the entire idea of the reality of homosexuality. The penguins can’t be something that even humans aren’t; and even if we could be gay, there would be a suggestion of self-awareness in the mix that penguins simply lack.
Oh, but wait! We can look at this another way. Humans are as gay as any other animal can be; the penguins prove it — which effectively destroys the “choice” argument the fanatics are so fond of.
The penguins in the book were trying to hatch an egg-like rock; they were doing what their instincts required of them, and maybe part of their problem lies in the fact that penguins look pretty much alike; maybe neither one even knows the other is male. Consider the relatively low sexual dimorphism in our species and see where your thoughts lead you.
They went through the motions of penguin sex, including, presumably, the begged-for and refused fellatio, the too-short-for-lubrication-to-flow foreplay, the thirty seconds of urgent thrusting and two hours of whiny apologizing and denials that it ever happened that way before, followed by the guilty slinking off in the morning without making eye contact. They then found a rock that looked like an egg (again, presumably with each bird assuming the other had laid it), and pretended to keep house.
Until the activist judges — oops, I mean the zookeepers — decided to help the couple adopt by switching the rock for a real egg.
So the birds, trapped in their instinctive need to mate, nest and breed, are basically the victims of some kind of bizarre miswiring, which idea is surely terrifying to the right-wing god brigade, who keep bleating about choice and lifestyle and sin and no way are you born like that and … huh? A couple of penguins? … oh shit.
But then you can’t impute things to them that they don’t feel, such as love or sexual orientation, now can you? If all they are is behaving purely reflexively, then there’s no room for choice, love, desire or passion, is there?
Well … is there with us?
On the one hand, we can’t infer anything about human behavior from the actions of a couple of birds. On the other hand, we wouldn’t want those birds’ traits imposed on us as humans.
The answer? Not to ban the book; but also not to take it as some sort of literal roadmap to show us all how to be more accpeting of those who are different. It’s cute, but we really shouldn’t read too much into it. This goes for both the gay community and the fanatics.
As for the book itself — some want it moved from the children’s section in the school library to the mature readers’ section. The town of Savannah, MO had a better solution; they put it into the nonfiction section, where it wouldn’t be expected to be a bedtime story for little kids.
I say calling the book “nonfiction” is still a stretch, but if it’ll quell this teapot tempest and let us all get the hell on with our lives, at least it’s an improvement.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go swim, get dinner and sit on a rock for a while.
* Yeah, I’m sure about that. The ancient Greeks were the first to propose that matter was made of atoms. If they’d believed in homosexuality, you can be certain they would have invented a term for it. That (by our standards) they were among the most gay people of all time is completely irrelevant.
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