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karyn anderson

Some adorable penguins and monkeys.

LGBTQ people have faced discrimination around the globe for centuries. A big reason is that non-heterosexual relationships have been seen as unnatural by both church and state. LGBTQ people have either been seen as acting against the will of God for rejecting the traditional family structure or, nature, for engaging in sexual activity that doesn’t result in reproduction.

However, science has slowly been striking down the idea that homosexuality is unnatural by proving that it’s seen across countless species, from bonobo monkeys to black swans to fruit flies. A landmark 2019 research paper found that over 1500 species of animals exhibit homosexual behavior.

However, now it appears that the paper wildly underestimated the amount of homosexual activity happening in nature.

A new report published on June 20, 2024, in the journal PLOSOne shows that same-sex sexual behavior in the animal kingdom is much more prevalent than previously documented. The big reason is that researchers have been underreporting their observations.

The study surveyed 65 experts and 77% said that they had observed same-sex sexual behavior in the species they studied. However, only 48% reported collecting data on the observations and only 18% published their findings.

“Many respondents reported that their lack of recording data or publishing on SSSB [same-sex sexual behavior] was due to a perception that it was very rare,” Karyn Anderson, a PhD candidate in evolutionary anthropology at the Univerity of Texas, who led the study, told CNN. “When looked at on a broader scale, we found instead that it was very commonly observed by our survey participants.”

Anderson adds that homosexuality is, in fact, “widespread and natural in the animal kingdom.”

The news doesn’t surprise Josh Davis, author of “A Little Gay Natural History,” a book that examines the diversity of sexual behavior in the natural world.

“Whilst it has only been officially recorded in around 1,500 species, this figure is likely a massive underestimate,” he told IFL Science. “This is because it can be found in pretty much every branch of the evolutionary tree, from beetles and butterflies to turtles and squirrels, so the idea that it is limited to just a few hundred species out of the 2.13 million described to date is incredibly unlikely.”

“There’s a growing suggestion it’s normal and natural to almost every species,” he added. “It’s probably more rare to be a purely heterosexual species.”

lgbtq, gay animals, sexuality research

People enjoying a pride parade.

via Aleks Magnusson/Pexels

At first, it may seem as though same-sex sexual behavior runs counter to evolution. If animals reproduce through heterosexual intercourse, why do some still have same-sex relations?

Researchers believe that homosexuality may have evolved in humans because individuals with a degree of same-sex attraction benefit from greater social integration, mobility, and stronger social bonds. So, there is a survival benefit to participating in same-sex sexual behavior.

These developments are further proof that humans and the rest of the animal kingdom have never been exclusively heterosexual and those that have same-sex relations are as natural as those who do not. It seems the more we learn about the science of sexuality, the more we realize that Lady Gaga was right on the mark when she wrote “Born This Way.”