Queer writer puts personal stamp on science textbook like scientist can’t / LGBTQ Nation

Like many of the behaviors that Eliot Schrefer describes in Queer Ducks (And Other Animals): The Natural World of Animal Sexuality, his book is difficult to categorize. Is it a science textbook? A queer child’s memoir? A university thesis illustrated with Far Side comics?

It’s definitely not a traditional science textbook. “Traditions,” writes Schrefer, “are just the peer pressure of dead people. We manage to create new ones.

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So what is it?

Illustrations by Jules Zuckerberg / @juleszuckerberg

First off, don’t judge the book by its cover, which teases you in rainbow colors Skittles that the subject matter is LGBTQ. Yes, but inside it’s as monochromatic as a circa 1979 newspaper.

Jules Zuckerberg’s comics are reminiscent of Gary Larson’s talkative animals and divide chapters into different species. Interviews with young working scientists describe how and why science is collected, and by whom. And throughout, Schrefer adds personal context to his various subjects.

“I was about eleven when I started to dwell on the Fruit of the Loom commercials in my brother’s Rolling Stone and realized I was attracted to other guys.”

This doesn’t sound like a traditional scientist’s daydreams, and Schrefer isn’t. With a bachelor’s degree in literature from Harvard, he is first and foremost a writer, mostly of young adult fiction, which explains his mastery of a book aimed at teenagers. But he’s also queer and is part of New York University’s Masters in Animal Studies program, where he learned this academic truth: “Science is made by scientists, and the way they think about the natural world is reflected in their explanations.”

In other words, who does the science, and on the subject of animal sexuality, science, until recently, has failed. queer ducksit turns out, is as much a story of human sexuality, homophobia, and confirmation bias as it is a study of those queer ducks.

Illustrations by Jules Zuckerberg / @juleszuckerberg

Schrefer writes, “The ‘scientific truth’ about animal sexuality depends on whether the author continues to view animals as damn heterosexual, in what we might call Noah’s Ark version of life, or s’ they let themselves be informed by the undeniable evidence of homosexual sexual behavior.

And there’s a lot of evidence.

“In 1999, researcher Bruce Bagemihl published his comprehensive and meticulously Biological exuberance: animal homosexuality and natural diversity, and over the years that followed, species after species, across the world of vertebrates and even invertebrates, research has shown same-sex pairings in hundreds of animal species. And not just casual bonds – sometimes lifelong partnerships between animals of the same sex.

Schrefer focuses on multiple species to illustrate particular behaviors in chapters like “Ducks and Geese: Where Do Animals Stand on Polyamory?” “Bonobos: Are we learning homosexuality or heterosexuality, or are we simply unlearning bisexuality? “Albatross: does sexuality require sex?” “Deer: are there any trans animals?” And “Bulls: what could be manlier than sex between two men?” (Apparently, nothing turns a bull on while jerking off more than being watched by another bull.)

There is a theory behind most of these behaviors. “Polyamory – the bonding of three or more animals, instead of the conventional two – can widen the effective pool of parents, increasing the survivability of offspring. There is also a theory known as “bisexual advantage” , from data showing that fluid sexuality increases the chances of reproduction in a population, making bisexuality “an evolutionary optimum.”

Illustrations by Jules Zuckerberg / @juleszuckerberg

For certain sexual behaviors in certain animals, such as humans, there is no scientific explanation. In the late 19th century, the French entomologist Henri Gadeau de Kerville “distinguished between doodlebugs that are driven to homosexual sex for lack of females, and those that just . . . like it (“pederasty by drop”).

How some humans like it. Or not.

“There was a particular flowering in New England woman-woman households in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, enough that the term ‘Boston marriage’ came to describe women cohabiting and spending their lives together , whether the union is sexual or not,” Schrefer said. LGBTQ Nation.

Like your “old maid” aunts, almost a third of albatross pairs are female-female. Are they “making the most of a bad job”?

“There is a strong drive to explain female pairing, especially in the scientific literature,” Schrefer said, “by reducing it to ‘mating women’ rather than seeing it as a chosen union. .”

Schefer points out that many societies have considered same-sex couples a reality.

“A major historical survey of all known human societies throughout history found that 64% sanctioned or approved of same-sex sexual behavior. A particularly large number of same-sex relationships are found in feudal Japan of the 17th century, the Maya civilization, the Florence of the 15th century and the indigenous peoples of North and South America.

And in Greece: “As men grew older, they generally went from eromenos to be active erase. As Diogenes Laertius wrote of the desirable Alcibiades, an Athenian general, “in his youth he separated husbands from their wives, and as a young man the wives from their husbands”.

Like dolphins, Greek society relied on social bonds cemented by the male-male sex.

“Sex,” writes Schrefer, “is a social cement.”

So who writes science now? Schrefer interviews several young and mostly LGBTQ wildlife scientists, including Sidney Woodruff, a PhD researcher.

“I think sometimes as queer researchers,” says Woodruff, “in our lives, we hope to disprove heteronormative assumptions, but we can also perpetuate those same assumptions in our research. For example, I have to keep in mind that if I’m researching sex and wildlife, I want it to be in some way because of my own gender and sexual identity. We have a lot of power, but in our quest to find inaccuracies in previous research, we need to make sure we’re also humble enough to know that we won’t always get the answer we want.

Looks like the science is in good hands.

Sidney Woodruff, PhD student