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Symbiartic

Symbiartic


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Is Homosexuality Natural? Yes. So is male lactation.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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As Gwenn Seemel points out in her richly illustrated book, Crime Against Nature, the non-human animal kingdom is chock-full of examples that challenge many of our deeply held beliefs about what is “natural” behavior in everything from sexual preference to lifestyle choices to gender roles and even gender identity.

She Wears the Pants (Spotted Hyena) by Gwenn Seemel

She Wears the Pants (Spotted Hyena) by Gwenn Seemel

What really happened when Nemo’s mother died (Clownfish) by Gwenn Seemel

What really happened when Nemo’s mother died (Clownfish) by Gwenn Seemel

Father and child (Dayak fruit bat)  by Gwenn Seemel

Father and child (Dayak fruit bat) by Gwenn Seemel

A third gender, male pregnancy and lactation, female penises – Seemel’s book covers it all and reminds us that if you’re inclined to look to nature for answers regarding what is “normal,” “natural,” or even “moral,” it’s clear that nature passes no judgement. There are no rules but the ones we impose on ourselves.

Boys Can Be the Pretty Ones (Chameleon) by Gwenn Seemel

Boys Can Be the Pretty Ones (Chameleon) by Gwenn Seemel

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a fertile woman to understand infertility (Dromedary) by Gwenn Seemel

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a fertile woman to understand infertility (Dromedary) by Gwenn Seemel

These images comprise a series of posters that combine the book’s text and illustrations into one. Many of Seemel’s original acrylic paintings from Crime Against Nature are available for sale (scroll down).

You can read Crime Against Nature online for free or buy it in pdf format ($6) or hard copy ($35).

Gwenn Seemel is also a portrait artist. View her portrait portfolio here.

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her at www.kalliopimonoyios.com. Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. ironjustice 10:17 am 05/17/2013

    Homosexuality is a hormone problem , evidenced by Ryan McKenna in which Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome , a disease , turned him into a girl.

    “Hormone condition called AIS transforms boy into girl”
    “My body changed itself from boy to girl Hormone imbalance not surgery,turns Ryan McKenna female”

    Link to this
  2. 2. outsidethebox 12:36 pm 05/17/2013

    Violence is natural. Murder is natural. Should natural be the metric?

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  3. 3. hans001 3:18 pm 05/17/2013

    Behavioral traits withing living beings follows a Gaussian profile. Majority will be within the bell of the curve. These are considered normal – normal humans, normal lions, etc, etc

    Then there will be some at the extremes. For example, around 1 in 1000 of humans are merciless killers, good as soldiers, because the wiring in their brains is abnormal. There are other conditions too at the outer limits.

    Same applies to physical features. Life is not created equally.

    Link to this
  4. 4. cbaggett 4:31 pm 05/17/2013

    why do gay/lesbian couples present as a heterosexual couple, i.e. one dresses & acts masculine & one feminine??

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  5. 5. N a g n o s t i c 5:18 pm 05/17/2013

    Arsenic and lace becoming old and dingy are natural. So are socially-maladjusted mathematical savants and navel oranges. There’s plus points along with a downside to most everything deviating significantly from the norm – most everything, not all things.

    Homosexuality often brings a superior design sense among males, though they will not normally pass that (if genes have anything to do with it), among other genetically pre-disposed things, along to the next generation.

    “Nominal” characteristics figure as such more or less prominently with circumstances. A homosexual family farmer is one with a more limited and less secure lifespan than one who happily procreates. Homosexuals thrive in industrial, cosmopolitan urban environments that are sufficiently removed from the enforcement of religiously derived rules against deviancy.

    The Islamic world, even in cities, is one especially hostile to homosexuals to this day. A rational choice for one predisposed towards homosexuality in such an environment is to adopt heterosexual practices, or become a cloistered monk or nun. I would regard insuring one’s premature demise through refusal to adapt these circumstances as irrational and not nominal, though perhaps noble.

    Describing something as “natural” says nothing about whether it’s “nominal”. Is there any research pointing towards an increase in the percentage of homosexuality among overcrowded human populations?

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  6. 6. Glendon Mellow 11:43 pm 05/17/2013

    First of all, the artwork on these is phenomenal. The unusual textures most at home on the chameleon’s scales but look amazing on the hyena and camel. Thanks so much for this post, Kalliopi: I wasn’t familiar with Seemel’s work.

    Second of all, I’d like to address some of the commenters.
    #2, Outsidethebox: gay, lesbian and transgendered people have been told for centuries that their natural feelings are not only unnatural, but abominations. Natural is the metric insofar as normalizing the fact that not everyone is born heterosexual. “Murder is natural” you say. A galaxy and a peach are both natural, but it does us little good to compare them.

    #4, cbaggett: why does it matter how couples or individuals choose to dress? Societal pressures to conform, and finding ways to resist that pressure govern the way anyone dresses, no matter their sexual orientation.

    Finally, why is everyone so hung up on just the sex? There’s some cool art up there people. Look again.

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  7. 7. archmeg 12:15 am 05/18/2013

    Gorgeous artwork. Very clever idea for teaching some neat aspects of nature.

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  8. 8. Scienceisnotagenda 1:41 am 05/18/2013

    Natural? Everything is natural. Incest,rape,murder. I have no issue with homosexuality. Cherry picking examples of ‘whatever’ from the animal kingdom proves zilch one way or the other.

    Hint…nice art is meaningless in this discussion…a sideshow for non-Scientific American.

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  9. 9. SolarScion 3:29 am 05/18/2013

    #4 cbagget
    That’s not always the case. Often you find that lesbian and gay couples tend to have an uncanny similarity in appearance. But in the cases that you’re referring to, I would point to the fact that they still live in the same culture as other people, and people like fitting in, especially when it’s hard to gain acceptance. Also, people have different genders no matter their sexual orientation, and sexual orientations (not being a simple binary ordeal themselves) have us attracted to all kinds of different people. Also, some people are afraid to branch out to really find their own identity. Some people are more adventurous. People who dress in flannel and have buzzed hair probably do so for the same reasons, regardless of their gender or sexuality. I suspect that some people who ‘look and act like the opposite gender’ may be transsexuals, but are too afraid to embrace what that means and what they would have to go through. Others may just feel like dressing however they do, whether that be a woman dressing like an androgynous fashionista who wears all black or a woman that dresses like a construction worker.

    #1 IronJustice
    You show your prejudice in calling homosexuality a “problem” and show your ignorance by confusing sexuality with gender, though hormones and brain chemistry do play a role in both. There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant, but there is in using it to try to justify your irrelevant and misleading personal feelings on the matter.

    #8 So visual representation of the subject matter is ‘meaningless’ to empirical assessment and understanding? You might want to rethink how much information is transferred by those things that the dirty plebs get impressed by. Personally, I thought the art was rubbish and it would have been much better served by good nature photography, but I think they’re trying to aim it at kids. Either way, it tells you about what it’s talking about and gives you a visual totem to associate the information with. Otherwise it’s just dead 2d glyphs you’re interpreting from a paragraph. And that’s incomplete information. Also, try to remember that different brains interpret and absorb data differently, and in novel ways.

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  10. 10. jgrosay 9:00 am 05/18/2013

    It seems there are some anecdotal reports of men that in the sudden absence of the woman lactating a baby, started putting the baby on his nipples, and succeeded in lactating in less than two days. A somehow misogynist man, dissapointed with the women around, wrote, dedicated to a baby: ‘¿Tienes hambre, teta quieres?: Yo te traeré una cabrita, para que dé tetita mejor que muchas mujeres’. -Are you hungry, tit want? I’ll bring you one goat to give you titty better than many women.

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  11. 11. jtdwyer 9:50 am 05/18/2013

    There’s far too many people on this planet, anyway!
    Have a nice day…

    Link to this
  12. 12. Scienceisnotagenda 11:06 am 05/18/2013

    Solar scion. This is supposedly SA and not a grade school primer. Artwork like this detracts from meaningful methodology.

    Link to this
  13. 13. Johanc22 11:23 am 05/18/2013

    Female hyenas don’t have penises, just very big clitori.

    Link to this
  14. 14. tuned 1:37 pm 05/18/2013

    So, you really want to be compared to a hyena?
    Liberals always avoid the core issue that has plagued ‘gays’ for millennia as the real reason they are traditionally shunned be societies.
    The LGBT lifestyle has always been very overindulgent in high risk lifestyle. Drugs and promiscuity both.
    Nature does not chase them around with horrendous diseases or needles either. They have to do that themselves.
    Abstain is the most scientific perfection against such disease and unwanted pregnancy.
    1 heroic generation of abstainers (at least until a safe monogamous relationship can be had) will eliminate most such communicable diseases at no medical cost.
    It doesn’t take God to see that.

    Link to this
  15. 15. John A. 6:18 pm 05/18/2013

    “A third gender, male pregnancy and lactation, female penises – Seemel’s book covers it all and reminds us that if you’re inclined to look to nature for answers regarding what is “normal,” “natural,” or even “moral,” it’s clear that nature passes no judgement. There are no rules but the ones we impose on ourselves.”

    Yes, but in people it does. Nature sure did impose “rules” on us, all this proves is that in a few million years we might be able to contradict them. Doesn’t convince me to live my life any differently, I want to live like men always have, a white heterosexual man who wants a feminine woman. I want to live a life full of the “double standards” that are supposedly so bad, because that is what feels natural to me.

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  16. 16. popseal 9:35 am 05/19/2013

    As long as it doesn’t touch me, I don’t care about homo’ stuff. But don’t ask me to approve. “Tolerance” in today’s vernacular is nothing but a moral coward’s last strong hold. Some behaviors are degrading and destructive as some are not. If a homo’ comes on to my grand children, he/she/it will have more of a problem than internet comments…………..

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  17. 17. StutterinSam 12:09 pm 05/19/2013

    I missed the connection between the title and the rest of the article. While I certainly don’t argue that maternal submission of testosterone expression in the womb retards the masculinization of certain parts of certain males’ brains, what part of this article has anything to do with the naturalness (or not) of homosexuality?

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  18. 18. David Marjanović 10:58 am 05/20/2013

    why do gay/lesbian couples present as a heterosexual couple, i.e. one dresses & acts masculine & one feminine??

    *blink* That’s hardly ever the case.

    It seems there are some anecdotal reports of men that in the sudden absence of the woman lactating a baby, started putting the baby on his nipples, and succeeded in lactating in less than two days.

    Yep. A bit of prolactin, and the milk flows. Prolactin is a hormone, and everyone makes all hormones, just in different amounts.

    Female hyenas don’t have penises, just very big clitori[des].

    Where, really, is the difference? They’re homologous.

    The LGBT lifestyle has always been very overindulgent in high risk lifestyle. Drugs and promiscuity both.

    Citation needed; oh, and, what do you think of marriage equality? :-)

    1 heroic generation of abstainers

    A whole generation of saints or demigods? I wouldn’t rely on a miracle to occur.

    I want to live a life full of the “double standards” that are supposedly so bad, because that is what feels natural to me.

    Exactly: different things feel natural to different people. That’s the whole point.

    If a homo’ comes on to my grand children, he/she/it will have more of a problem than internet comments…………..

    And if a hetero comes on to your grandchildren… are you trying to say they won’t have a problem?

    Or have you perhaps confused homosexuality with pedophilia?

    Link to this
  19. 19. bgriswold 8:59 pm 05/20/2013

    Hitting the hot button issues again I see. Nice art Kapi!

    Link to this

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