Gay Penguin for America

If you're one of those undecided voters who can't make up their mind whether to vote for Bush, Kerry, Nader, or HRM Caesar St. Augustine de Buonaparte, then here's a fifth candidate you might want to consider: Gay Penguin. As Gay Penguin's website explains, "Gay Penguin is a homosexual penguin. He is incapable of speaking, of signing laws and bills, and perhaps even incapable of abstract thought." His site then goes on to ask you to "Imagine a world where America has been ruled by a Gay Penguin since 2000." Gay Penguin also has a blog, though it doesn't seem to be updated very often (probably because of his inability to read or write).

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Posted on Wed Oct 06, 2004


Penguins have sex only to procreate. So, how would they know that a penguin was gay?
Posted by Maegan  on  Thu Oct 07, 2004  at  12:20 PM
The famous story of New York Zoo's gay penguins that influenced the joke campaign:
Posted by Nat  on  Thu Oct 07, 2004  at  12:33 PM
"How would they know a penguin was gay?"
because it is male and tries to have sex with other male penguins. duh!
Maegan, didn't you see the sign that says you must be at least as smart as this stick to use the internet?
Posted by John.  on  Thu Oct 07, 2004  at  01:30 PM
After looking at Nat's link, I can see that there definitely are at least two gay penguins in the world.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Thu Oct 07, 2004  at  06:07 PM
I don't appreciate having my intelligence compared to a stick. I only read part of that article, skimming through quotes from "scientists".

When a zookeeper sees 2 male penguins trying to have sex (and I use the word sex in it's loosest possible terms) does he recall that there is always a pecking order in the animal kingdom? That one is always the lesser of another. Maybe one penguin was showing it's dominance to another. Animals do lots of things in captivity that they don't do in the wild. Yes, I read that animals were observed in the wild trying to mount animals of the same sex...But if animals are so smart and human-like then wouldn't one assume the possiblity of the animals KNOWING they are being watched? Maybe they feel threatened by a presence near their nesting area. I know that when I've been home alone & someone comes to the door I might very loudly say, "I'll get the door, sweetheart," because I don't want the person at the door to think that I am a woman home alone w/ an infant. I want that person to know that there is a male presence nearby. Is it possible that the animals are showing their "male" presence by mounting & pretending to copulate?

Also, I can't think the last time I played hide-n-seek & peek-a-boo with someone and had it interpreted that I wanted to have sex with any of the other players.
Posted by Maegan  on  Sun Oct 10, 2004  at  11:41 AM
The stick reference is a parody of the amusement park signs "you must be at least as tall as this stick to ride this ride" and the point of whomever came up with that phrase (it's quite old; I first saw it in a .sig in about 1989) is that some people don't demonstrate enough intelligence in their postings to be taken seriously. When I read your line asking "...know that a penguin was gay?" it seemed that you were demonstrating severe cluelessness.

I now see that your post was a genuine question originating in a very different philosophical space than the one I usually inhabit, and I apologize for not taking it seriously at first. In my world view, if an animal exhibits a behavior that appears consistent with a human behavior associated with a particular attribute, then that animal has that attribute. For example, if an animal is foraging for food I would say that it is hungry. You might say that it is exhibiting food-seeking behavior and accuse me of anthropomorphizing that behavior by using the human-only word "hungry". Yours is a more scientifically rigorous position and can be quite useful to keeping a proper scientific distance when describing animals and their behavior, thought it can be a bit cumbersome.

Now, how does this relate to gay penguins, or any other gay animals? Well, we can say that the penguins in question exhibited same-sex courtship and mating behaviors [given the lack of external genitals on almost all bird species, same-sex sex is nearly identical to opposite-sex sex], and stop short of calling them "gay", but I'm not sure where that gets us. The point is that in both captivity and in the wild animals have been observed to engage in behaviors (usually associated with heterosexual couplings) with others of the same sex. If we don't call them gay but instead simply describe their behaviors in an objective way, it doesn't change the fact that the behaviors exist, regardless of the mental state of the animal actors. The animal cowering in the corner is cowering in the corner regardless of our calling it "frightened"; the animal seeking food is seeking food, regardless of our calling it "hungry"; the animals engaged in pair bond behavior are engaged in pair bond behavior regardless of our saying they are in love with each other.

So, now I will argue that if you take a purely descriptive stance, then how can you say that penguins have sex only to procreate? If we restrict ourselves to simply describing their behavior and not their "inner mental lives" then we can't a priori know why they have sex. This comes down to a question of whether an animal has an inner mental life that is in any way comparable to a human's, or are they simply soulless automatons acting purely on instinct. While I can't prove that penguin has sex because it enjoys the act, you can't prove that it doesn't enjoy the sex, because you are saying that its mind is an unknowable black box.

Posted by John.  on  Tue Oct 12, 2004  at  05:19 PM
I just want to say that sex alone does not make someone or something gay. We've all heard the stories of people in college that were "experimenting." Does this act alone mean they are gay? No. Homosexuality includes an emotional bond as well. Since we can't know what is going on inside an animal's head, we don't know if they share this bond or not, so it is impossible to say whether they are gay or not. The most we can say is that they engage in homosexual activities. The entire discussion seems moot to me.
Posted by Bill  on  Wed Jul 13, 2005  at  11:08 PM
Of course you are right! There is no way we can *know* what is going on inside an animal's head, so there is no way we can apply labels such as "homosexual" or "heterosexual" to them. By the same token, other labels that refer to "state of mind" are equally invalid. We cannot say "That penguin is hungry" just because he is eating. He might have an eating disorder or he might be eating as a defense mechanism to being cooped up in a small cage. We cannot say "That penguin is tired" because he might just be lazy or have a physical aliment. Far more accurate would be to say "That penguin is exhibiting food-seeking/eating behavior" or "That penguin is exhibiting fatigue behavior" or "That penguin is exhibiting same-sex mating behavior". This ties back to Maegan's original comment "Penguins have sex only to procreate. So, how would they know that a penguin was gay?" which I should have answered more thoughtfully. What I should have said then, and will say now, is that "Some would say they are gay because they exhibit same-sex mating behavior, just as some would say they are hungry because they exhibit food-seeking/eating behavior."

The discussion isn't moot at all. It is meaningful to ask "Can I ascribe a state of mind to an individual whose mind can only be known through his actions?" This applies to people, too! How do we know that Ellen Degeneris is gay except that she has said that she is? How do we know that Fred "" Phelps is straight? Either might be lying, and very plausable scenarios can be built to support the reasons for those lies.

I would suggest that most of us, most of the time, assume that when a individual behavies in a certain way indicative of a state of mind then that individual *has* that state of mind. By that criteria then the male penguin that has sex and other pair-bond behaviors with another male penguin can be said to be gay, just as the penguin that engages in food-seeking and eating behaviors can be said to be hungry.

Posted by John.  on  Thu Jul 14, 2005  at  05:07 AM
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