Enrichment Arts & Culture

Museum highlights same-sex relationships in animals

NMBE/ Rodriguez

Story at a glance

  • A museum in Switzerland is highlighting same-sex relationships in animals in a new exhibition.
  • Examples of same-sex relationships in the animal kingdom are plentiful and can be useful in strengthening social bonds.
  • Nearly 70 countries continue to criminalize same-sex relationships in humans. In some countries, same-sex behavior is punishable by death.

A museum in Switzerland is showcasing same-sex relationships in the animal kingdom in a new exhibition.

The exhibition at the Natural History Museum in Bern, the Swiss capital, explores the diversity of gender and sexual orientation in humans and other species. Displays range from biological discoveries to current debates on homosexuality, aiming to bridge the gap between nature and society.

“Many people think that homosexuality and being queer are marginal and perverse phenomena. They say they are unnatural,” Christian Kropf, a biologist at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Bern and the exhibition’s scientific curator, told Swissinfo.ch. “But this is nonsense!”

Examples of same-sex behavior in the natural world are plentiful, and animals like dolphins and rams have been known to not only engage in same-sex activity, but also form long-lasting same-sex partnerships.


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Same-sex behavior has been observed in at least 1,500 species and is likely present in all social vertebrates, Kropf said. These relationships can be immensely useful in fortifying social bonds.

Same-sex behavior in dolphins could play a critical role in their social organization, according to research from Murdoch University in Australia, and interactions between animals of the same sex help form hierarchies, which can be helpful during group activities like hunting.

“The reasons for homosexual relationships are not always clear, but we do know that they strengthen social bonds and can contribute to group unity,” Kopf said. Cases of same-sex parenting are also abundant in animals, he said.

Nearly 70 countries continue to criminalize same-sex relationships in humans, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, or ILGA. In some countries, including Saudi Arabia and five other United Nations member states, homosexuality is punishable by death.

Kropf said he hopes his exhibition, which was recently extended until March 2023, will help people become more tolerant.

“I don’t know if [the exhibition] contributed to the acceptance of the new marriage law in Switzerland,” Kropf said. “But it certainly had an impact on my father. He is 87 years old and has never spoken well of homosexual people. But since he came here he has changed. He realized that same-sex behavior is absolutely normal,” he said.

Switzerland earlier this year became one of the last European Union countries to legalize same-sex marriage.


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