Marianna Manson | Contributing Writer | Friday, 15 April 2016

These Lions Are Gay And It Is Just So Beautiful

These Lions Are Gay And It Is Just So Beautiful

The Debrief: Because love transcends all boundaries, guys

It’s still not something you’d expect to see on a David Attenborough documentary, but Belgian holidaymaker Nicole Cambré has photographed two male lions in Botswana in what sure does look like an unabashed display of mutual affection. 

The lions had apparently been engaging in ‘intimate’ behaviour for over a week when Nicole spotted them, according to the park guide, and had pushed out the resident males of the pride earlier in the year. By the time these photo’s were taken, most of the females in the pride had moved on too – but the loved-up lions appear to be totally oblivious.

'It is the first time I’ve seen such behaviour in lions,' Nicole told The Daily Mail, 'but when reading about it upon my return, it’s not that uncommon.'

‘Not that uncommon’ is an understatement – in fact, multiple studies over the past few decades indicate that there have been recorded instances of homosexual behaviour in animals in as many as 500 species. Some animals, like black swans, penguins and sheep are known to have exhibited exclusively ‘gay’ behaviours in substantial numbers, refusing to mate with the opposite sex at all. 

So doesn’t this raise questions about ongoing attitudes in the human world that being gay ‘goes against nature’? Although biologists are disinclined to refer to this kind of behaviour in the animal kingdom as specificially gay, arguing that the word and its implications are societally constructed (which is a fair point), it does provide even more incentive to start thinking of sexuality as something much more complex and varied than we have been doing. 

Sexuality as a spectrum is an idea which has gained a lot of widespread momentum in the past few years – LGBTQ voices are becoming louder, and prejudices are gradually being broken down. In the animal kingdom, where societal taboos don’t exist in the same way, homosexual and bisexual animals have had a role to play undisturbed. Norwegian Zoologist Petter Bockman told the Daily Mail that 'Sexuality is not just about making babies, it is also about making the flock work. For some animals, homosexuality is normal flock behaviour.'

Potentially something to do with the Scandinavian peoples’ traditionally tolerant attitudes toward non-normative sexual behaviours, in 2006 – 2007 Oslo’s Natural History Museum Exhibited a collection of photographs of homosexuality animals, aptly named ‘Against Nature?’. According to them, gay animals exist in up to 1,500 species, and they had the photographs to prove it. The museum said at the time that the exhibition aimed to 'help to de-mystify homosexuality among people, [by] rejecting the all too well known argument that homosexual behaviour is a crime against nature.'

Hear Hear, Norway. 

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Follow Marianna on Twitter: @mmanson1992


Tags: Love & Marriage, Animals