Homosexual activity has been documented in many animal species but labeling animals as gay carries social baggage that scientists want to keep out of their research. “Laysan albatrosses are one of countless species in which the two sexes look basically identical. It turned out that many of the female-female pairs…had been together for 4, 8 or even 19 years — as far back as the biologists’ data went, in some cases. The female-female pairs had been incubating eggs together, rearing chicks and just generally passing under everybody’s nose for what you might call ‘straight’ couples. Young would never use the phrase ‘straight couples.’ And she is adamantly against calling the other birds ‘lesbians’ too. For one thing, the same-sex pairs appear to do everything male-female pairs do except have sex, and Young isn’t really sure, or comfortable judging, whether that technically qualifies them as lesbians or not. But moreover, the whole question is meaningless to her; it has nothing to do with her research. ‘ ‘Lesbian,’ ” she told me, ‘is a human term,’ and Young — a diligent and cautious scientist, just beginning to make a name in her field — is devoted to using the most aseptic language possible and resisting any tinge of anthropomorphism.”
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