Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, Dawn Butler, claimed that 90% of giraffes are gay, causing a furore with other senior party figures.
Speaking at the Pink News Awards earlier this month, Butler, a Labour MP who first entered the Commons in 2005, said that “90% of giraffes are gay” as proof that you can’t teach “gayness”.
They talk about teaching people or children to be gay. They don’t want people to be taught to be gay. I want to know this, right: if you can teach “gayness” – if that’s even a word – if you can teach gayness, who speaks giraffe? Because 90 per cent of giraffes are gay. So, if you can teach it, I want to know who the hell speaks giraffe? What does that sound like? Because you cannot teach it. You can’t teach it, and it’s not a disease either. Being who you are and your true, authentic self is not a disease.
Lachlan Stuart, a domestic policy advisor to the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was outraged by Butler’s comments, and took to his Twitter to fire back.
Is there any truth to this claim? In short, no, there isn’t. It is a ludicrous, offensive, homophobic claim… do you get why it’s completely f****** offensive?… It’s akin to describing Deliverance [the 1972 thriller starring Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds] as a “gay romance” because the effete city boys are put in their place by the locals by getting beaten and then raped.
In terms of scientific accuracy, it seems clear that Butler is wrong. Stephanie Fennessy, director of Namibia’s Giraffe Conservation Foundation, said there was absolutely no scientific proof that 90% of giraffes are gay:
While I totally agree with Dawn Butler’s comment that we should accept people for who they are, she is incorrect in her comment that giraffes are gay. Sometimes they fake-hump each other, which is also dominance behaviour. Dogs do that as well. And when you see them necking, it’s fighting. It’s vicious. They can kill each other.
Dr Natalie Cooper of the Natural History Musuem, disagreed that all giraffe same-sex interaction was aggressive, but said there was still no proof of Butler’s claim:
Homosexual behaviour is both common and natural in many animals in the wild. Like humans, animals use sex for multiple purposes, which can include dominance and a range of other motivations. Giraffes engage in hetero and homo sexual behaviours – including grooming, necking and mounting…. At the moment, I don’t think we have enough research to know why the males do it. There are usually females around, so it’s not just because there are no females. Giraffes don’t have a sexual orientation. That’s a human thing.