Zoosexuality and the LGBTQ

Is zoosexuality part of the LGBTQ movement? It’s a complicated question that has persisted for many years. There’s been a lot of discussion back and forth on both sides, and there’s no clear consensus. I know quite a few zoos that would feel uncomfortable placing themselves under the rainbow umbrella, and I know others who consider being queer as part of their identity. While at the end of the day it’s all just labels, I think that it’s an important conversation to have. In recent times, the LGBTQ movement as a whole has garnered massive social awareness and support. Not only is there less stigma around being a sexual minority, but the movement is taking steps to lift up those communities and make sure that the people that are a part of them feel proud of who they are. If we did consider zoosexuality to be part of the LGBTQ movement, we would likely find a great deal of common ground, shared history, shared values, and arguably we will end up on the same path towards social acceptance. There are definitely some potential downsides too. There is a decent likelihood we’d encounter push-back from saying that zoosexuality is in any way LGBTQ, and that feeling could grow over time. Much like the opposition to the rights of others in the past, there’s a level of narrative resistance that currently exists, which can make conversations start off on the wrong foot. One last thing before we dive into this. Much like the topic at hand, what form of the acronym LGBTQ you’re supposed to use is somewhat up in the air as well. I just want to make it clear that even though I’m using just the five letters instead of LGTBQIA2+ I still fully support all of the groups that fall under the umbrella. For me, I just think that LGBTQ is the most succinct name for the movement as a whole. If you disagree, that’s totally okay! With that out of the way, let’s dive in!

Let’s start with one of the common criticisms against the inclusion. Right now, zoosexuality faces a fair amount of bias against it. Even genuine researchers and academics have felt the weight of angry mobs on social media, and at times have been silenced. And with that kind of public negativity, one of the biggest concerns about trying to forge a connection between the zoo movement and the LGBTQ movement is that that community may end up taking a harder stance against zoo, and that may cause further public backlash. Coming on too strong can backfire, and a firm rejection because we tried too hard too early could end up stymieing our movement in the future. Think of it this way - if we just showed up at a pride parade with flags and chants and everything, we might not find a warm welcome. And the fact that we even tried could leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. Maybe that story then gets picked up by the news, or goes viral on twitter, and then there’s a viral out of context clip that might go on to influence the opinions of others all over the globe. The other side of this argument of course is, if not now then when? There are so many people that identify as a sexual minority in the zoosexual community outside of just their animal attraction. Part of the reason that so many of us feel a tie to the LGBTQ movement is because we’re already a part of it. It feels counter-intuitive to be a part of something that encourages you to be yourself, but ‘not like that’. There will always be people that will reject us, so trying to leave the band-aid on as long as possible is just feels like delaying the inevitable. Maybe it’s better to get the conversation started now when we can talk about it on a smaller level, and then hopefully grow into our place in that movement. But that’s just the most common arguments that I hear on both sides. I want to try and look at this issue on a deeper level. To decide whether or not we belong with the LGBTQ, it would be helpful to understand where that term even came from.

The history of the term LGBTQ is pretty interesting when looking back on it from a zoo perspective. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the LGBTQ umbrella didn’t really exist. Definitely not in the way that we view it now. The Gay liberation movement was just starting to pick up steam and that forward momentum caused a lot of friction with other groups that were also hoping to be uplifted. Specifically the bisexual and transsexual movements. Trans people were frequently viewed as fetishists acting out gender stereotypes as a form of kink, and bisexuals were seen as either gay men that were too scared to come out of the closet, or sluts that only cared about sex and didn’t care who it was with. Many gay rights activists of the time were scared to try and allow other minorities to fall under the same banner, as they were worried that it would make them look bad and hurt their cause. It took nearly a decade before those groups started to see actual acceptance, and even then progress was slow. It was only in 1988 that the term LGBTQ first started being used, and it saw general acceptance growing into the 1990’s. Since then, the term has been shaped further and further, with various groups joining under the acronym until it eventually became the umbrella term that it is today. From its onset, LGBTQ was a movement created for unity. It was the joining of a number of sexual minorities under one flag in order to be stronger together.

Nowadays the LGBTQ movement is more than just a month of the year, or as simple as being able to have gay communities. It’s a level of social sexual understanding. Before this movement existed, having a conversation about sexuality was complicated, especially if you were outside of the traditional norms. If you wanted to tell someone you were gay, for instance, it was more than just coming out. If the person to whom you were coming out knew what being gay was, there was a good chance that they had a lot of implicit negativity towards it, a lot of false beliefs, and you would have to work to try and show them that those negative stereotypes aren’t true and their beliefs are based on lies. Or, it could even be having to explain what “being gay” even is. And that’s assuming that you even know what it is. For a lot of people, before the gay rights movement, if you realized that you were attracted to the same gender, you didn’t even know what that meant. When we talk about zoosexuality being a part of the LGBTQ movement, what we’re saying is that we’re looking for the support and the social acceptance that comes with it. We don’t just want to be able to have a float in the parade, we want people to realise straight away that zoosexuality is something positive. We want to be able to come out as zoosexual without needing to go through all the steps of explaining what that is, or dispelling all the myths, or denying all the false accusations. I’m sure for zoos reading this, a lot of the historical gay experience rings true for the struggles they face today. I know, because it definitely does for me.

Okay, I want to get personal here for a paragraph. I’m bisexual. I grew up somewhere where being gay was a very bad thing. I had others reveal my sexuality to the public when I very much didn’t want that to be the case, and I received hate and vitriol of all kinds for it. When I found the gay community, I thought that I finally found somewhere where I could be myself and feel safe. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case; I was accepted whole heartedly until I told them that I liked both genders. I’ve had straight people tell me that I’m destroying society with my existence for being gay, or that my sexuality is me giving into temptation from the devil. I’ve had gay people tell me that I’m just in my slutty phase and I’ll grow out of my bisexuality, or that I shouldn’t be allowed to call myself queer because I’m too scared to fully come out as gay. I’ve also had people tell me that I’m a rapist for loving my canine partner the same way as my human one. My biggest take away from hearing all those things is that all bigotry comes from the same place. Hate is hate, and getting hated for who you love never feels good or just. It feels the same when someone tells me that I’m a sinner and should go to hell for loving someone of my gender as it does when someone tells me that I’m a sinner and should go to hell for loving someone of another species. It’s downright astonishing how so many of the arguments that were used against gay people have been recycled to be used against the next minority in line, whether that was bisexuals, transgender people or zoosexuals. And that’s why I think we should be a part of the LGBTQ movement. It’s not that we deserve it or don’t. It’s that at the root of it, it’s the same fight already fought by sexual minorities before us. There are differences, sure, but in the grand scope of things we’re fighting the same battle. We’re fighting to show that love is love, and that hate always wears the same face.

But you don’t have to agree with me. If you think that zoosexuality doesn’t belong under the LGBTQ umbrella, that’s totally okay. Not everyone needs to feel the same about every single issue. This is just my opinion. In my eyes, when it comes down to it, we already are a part of the LGBTQ spectrum. We’re a sexual minority that’s faced backlash, that’s faced hate and lies, and the whole purpose of creating the term LGBTQ was to bring every suffering group under the same umbrella, stronger together. I’m not saying that we need to start referring to it as LGBTQZ. Everyone knows there are enough variations out there already. But as far as the blanket definition goes we’re already well under it. The zoosexuality movement is still in its early days. We’re not anywhere close to talking about things like mass social acceptance or legalization. But, thankfully, we’re not the ones that need to break ground on the idea of sexual minorities. A lot of the legwork has already been done for us. More and more people are coming to understand that love is love, and that it can take a lot of different forms. Not only would it be a missed opportunity if we failed to follow the lead of the LGBTQ movement, but we’d be actively hurting ourselves by not learning from their mistakes. We have struggles to face, but we can take solace in the fact that we know success is only a matter of time.

So be proud of who you are. Because pride is what it’s all about.

Article written by Tarro (August 2022)

Find him at https://twitter.com/hereforthezoo

Questions, comments or concerns? Find the discussion thread at https://zoocommunity.org/thread-1470.html

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