Bhakti Ananda Goswami, board member, OII
This article represents the views of its author and does not represent Organisation Intersex International policy nor that of its affiliates. The views of the author may well have changed since this article was written.
WHILE some modern sexologists and other authors argue that the human species is not really monogamous by nature, there is no argument among biologists that there are species that are essentially monogamously pair-bonding, and that these are often very social species which live in colonies, flocks or other complex social orders with equally complex sex-dimorphic behaviors.
In these species it is often the case that the optimal survival of the individual is dependent upon having a lifelong mate. Without a mate, the life expectancy and health of the individual may be greatly reduced. Two parents are also necessary for the optimal rearing of offspring in these species. So what does this have to do with so-called same-sex marriage in humans?
The Biological Imperative to Pair-Bond and What Really Is A ‘Same-Sex’ Pair?
IN many monogamous pair bonding species, so-called same-sex pair bonding does occur in a fairly stable percentage of the population. However, when individuals, local populations, or a wider segment of the population of such a species becomes stressed due to force(s) either from within or without, such as a disease or environmental habitat degradation, famine or even over population, there is an increase of ‘same-sex’ pair bonding.
- Why is this so, and
- what is its effect on the ‘same-sex’ pairs themselves and
- what is its effect on the species?
First I must clarify that studies have shown intersex or sex-reversal in the bodies, (including hormones) and behaviors of one or both of the members of these so-called ‘same-sex’ pairs. Thus one or both individuals in the pair may be communicating with sex-reversed sex signalling, or responding to its partner’s sex-signalling in a sex-reversed way. In human terms, who we are sexually attracted to, or repulsed by, is regulated at the neurochemical level by how we respond to others’ sex-signalling. Sexual arousal is a complicated process that involves a variety of stimuli. Our dress and grooming, movement, speech, and even smell communicates sex-signals to others. All of our senses are also involved in continuously sorting-out the stimuli that we receive from others for the signals and meanings, sexual or not, that they are sending to us.
For example, pheromones are scents, or olfactory sex signals, produced by animals or plants, that trigger specific responses in those creatures who have olfactory receptors for them. This is the language of chemical communication that is very common throughout countless species of plants and animals. Pheromones can be powerful attractants, or warnings to stay away! In sex-signalling between two individuals, both are signalling and responding unconsciously, and also may be consciously purposely trying to attract or repel each other. The point is that the many mechanisms and languages of animal and human sex-signalling and responding are now very well studied, and much is now known about them, including how they play central roles in both heterosexual and so-called same-sex pair bonding. Since pair-bonding, whether opposite sex or same-sex, is mediated by the sex-signalling communication between the individuals, scientists are interested in studying this communication.
To simplify: if a physically feminized so-called male is putting-out receptive female sex-signals, and he meets a masculine man whose body reads those signals as ‘receptive female,’ they may be sexually attractive to each other and form a ‘same-sex’ couple, while actually their attraction and bond is being held together by regular heterosexual sex-signalling, including biochemical receptive-feminine and mounting-masculine communications.
In the case of a ‘same-sex’ pair of birds, in which one sings or displays/dances with behavior appropriate for the opposite sex, the one with the transsexed or sex-reversed singing & dancing, etc., will be identified by biologists as intersexed. So, why do we not acknowledge the intersex status of a human ‘male’ who is exclusively sexually receptive and sending-out receptive-female sex signals? This is why I dispute the accuracy of calling such couples ‘same-sex’ couples. As soon as one of the pair is transsexed, intersexed or transgendered, even if only in behavior, it changes the equation of ‘same-sex’ attraction. Now consider that many homosexual male and lesbian couples (especially those seeking marriage!) are bonded pairs of one sexually receptive or ‘femme’ person and one masculine or ‘butch’ person, whose primary sexual drive is to ‘mount and copulate’ with their exclusively receptive ‘femme’ partner. This is exactly what often is observed in other monogamous pair bonding species, with their so-called same-sex pairs/couples. One will usually be sexually receptive and the other compelled to ‘mount.’
Historically among lesbians many masculine ‘butch dykes’ have exhibited a strong biological compulsion to mount and penetrate their ‘femme’ partners. In the past, such mounting has sometimes been described by researchers under the more general term ‘tribadism’ (rubbing), but this is inaccurate and misleading. Such ‘butch dykes’ have even been described as using strap-on penile prostheses (‘dildos’) to not only satisfy their partners, but to satisfy their own biological compulsion to ‘mount and penetrate’ their receptive partners. ‘Packing’ or wearing such a penile prosthesis is common among so-called female-to-male transsexuals, who do not have a ‘phalloclit’ from testosterone therapy, and may not feel whole without it. When so-called female mammals and birds are androgenized so that they exhibit such persistent mounting-to-penetrate mating behavior, they are called intersexed, or their behavior is called sex-reversed. So why do we not acknowledge that similar humans who are biologically compelled to mount and penetrate are masculinize persons, regardless of what their genitalia look like?
Instead of admitting that there are exclusively sexually receptive feminine intersex people and exclusively sexually mounting-penetrating masculine intersex people, just as found in other species, why do some religious, medical and political leaders continue to insist that there are only two classes of sexed and gendered beings, and therefore only two possible kinds of sexual acts and ‘orientations?’ This illogical insistence ignores all of the vast information from the life sciences that intersex and sex-reversed beings and behaviors exist throughout the biological realm, are very common and in fact serve important purposes.
Being Feminine or Masculine, About Giving or Receiving
FEMINISTS may not want to admit it, but when it comes to sex, feminine and masculine are not social constructs or the product of some patriarchal global conspiracy to oppress women. As the ancient mystics of the East and West perceived, being feminine or masculine is about receiving and giving in the smallest and largest scheme of things, and everything in between.
Thus, in the matter of gender identity and related intersexed or sex-reversed behavior, the invisible dynamic of the receptive-and-penetrating relational forces is usually controlling, not the form of the genitalia of the persons (or rodents, chimps, birds, or fish, etc.) involved. It is the invisible person, who has a gender identity, with related desires, drives and behaviors, who communicates those to others, and who attracts and responds in relationships! Mere parts do not make a man or a women. Living people are attractive, not collections of parts. Parts do not cause lifelong bonds. Relational forces do. Is there any greater proof that the human species is a ‘monogamous pair bonding species’ than the fact that like all other monogamous pair bonding species, our own intersexed and transsexed/sex-reversed behavior individuals still intensely desire to monogamously pair bond and are demanding so-called ‘same-sex’ marriage rights! ‘Same-sex’ couples only pair bond in monogamous species! Only in a monogamous pair bonding species could so-called ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ bonded pairs occur. Thus ‘gay marriage’ is not only not a threat to heterosexual marriage; it is the strongest social-species evidence yet that the human species is a monogamous pair bonding one!
Our gender identity, masculine, feminine, androgynous, strong, weak or asexual, is such a profound part of us, that it endures any insult or oppression and survives at the deepest and most primitive and powerful part of our self-consciousness. Related to our innate gender identity are our most basic physical urges, which among other things compel us to be exclusively receptive in sex acts, or to mount and penetrate someone else, or even to avoid sex altogether.
The truth in the stereo types of ‘queens’ and ‘butch dykes’ is that many ‘gays’ and ‘lesbians’ are either very feminine or very masculine, regardless of the radical feminist agenda to erase this kind of ‘patriarchal genderedness’ from everyone’s social reality. Elsewhere I have written more about feminized males and ‘queens’, but what about ‘butch dykes’? Some of these masculine persons eventually realize that they are actually hormonally or neurologically intersex persons, or so-called ‘female to male’ transsexuals. Unfortunately, if this happens and they try to assert themselves as male, they usually find themselves exiled from their previous lesbian communities. This is a topic for another time.
Obviously the individual’s biological imperative to mate in monogamous pair bonding species is so strong, that they will endure great difficulty and danger to do it, and they will find and bond with a lifelong mate regardless of whether offspring result or survive or not. Thus the prime imperative for the individual is to survive with quality of life, and for that, a mate that can be bonded with is needed. So it is clear what the benefit is to the individuals who so-called ‘same-sex’ pair bond, their quality and longevity of life is increased, but what is the benefit to the species, when these couples are usually non-reproductive? That is the usual benefit. Because they do not produce offspring, their offspring do not increase the burden on the habitat, nesting, food or water resources, and they are actually available to enhance the quality of life of others in their colony or social order, because they perform needed services when their energies are not used-up caring for their own biological young. Yes, these ‘same-sex’ pairs do adopt and foster parent the off-spring of others! In fact the non-reproductive members of many species are primarily care-takers of the young!!! So being non-reproductive does not mean that there is no parenting or caretaking ‘instinct’ and drive in such ‘third sex’ beings!
Why is there is an increase of intersex individuals, sex-reversed behavior and so-called ‘same-sex’ pair bonding in monogamous pair bonding species, when these species are under local or regional stress, such as degradation of habitat, over population, famine or disease, etc?
This appears to be a natural fertility reduction mechanism for population control, and to free the non-reproductive pairs for other service to the colony, etc.
What is the effect of this on the ‘same-sex’ pairs themselves?
Their primary individual biological imperative to mate and bond for a lifetime is met, and thus their own chance of survival and quality of life is improved. They are also freed from feeding and caring for their own biological young, and thus can improve their own quality of life, as well as contribute more to the success of their species, even feeding and caring for others. The care-taking ‘instinct’ does not appear to be lacking in non-reproductive couples.
What is the contribution of the ‘same-sex’ pairs to the survival, present and future quality of life of their species?
By reducing both the reproductive success rate of the present generation, and therefore the future population load on the stressed locality or region, there is both an immediate and longer-term reduction of demand on resources, with the attendant improvement of quality of life for those living, and those yet to be born. This may avoid a massive or catastrophic die-off from violent competition for limited resources, species self-destruction, ‘warfare’ or cannibalism. It may avert an impending ecological disaster, such as a non-reversible depletion of a prey species, a vegetation food source, a water source or habitat, or other resource. It may help to slow or stop the generational or other (including forced-migrational) transmission of a disease or parasite. It may free the successful non-reproductive pairs to care for the young of their species whose own biological parents cannot care for them. It may free non-reproductive pairs for other service to their colony, etc. in such things as habitat protection and enhancement, protecting the colony etc. from predators, developing food sources, collecting, processing, transporting and storing food and other such services.
Which is the better alternative for any species, a temporary reduction in fertility, or an over-population crisis, like a plague of mice, toads, rabbits or locusts devastating the environment, and then experiencing a massive catastrophic self-destruction or die-off, with thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of individuals being born, only to die prematurely and horribly? Or is it better for nature to have some built-in mechanisms to slow population growth when a species is exceeding the carrying capacity of its habitat, or is otherwise under increasing stress?
I am sure that the people who have lived through plagues of mice, toads, rabbits and locusts, would rather that there was more ‘same-sex’ mating and some non-reproductive pair bonding going on in these species!