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Biologists Label Bird 'Transgender'


In New Zealand, a threatened bellbird stuns biologists.

Treehugger writes:

Recently, at Zealandia eco-sanctuary in New Zealand, biologists were surprised to discover that one of their newest animal arrivals seemed genetically predisposed to shunning those normally cut and dry distinctions of sexual dimorphism. Routine DNA testing on a young bellbird hatched there 18 months ago indicated that it was female, but as it grew things became clearly more complicated than that.

Instead of only growing the white feather pattern found in female bellbirds, this individual showed distinct signs of a male's dark plumage as well. Even the bird's behavior seemed indicative of male bird traits, such as in vocalizing in distinctively masculine calls and acting uncharacteristically territorial, leading biologists to declare the bird 'transgender'.

While other bird species have displayed 'transgender' traits, this is the first bellbird observed to have them.

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  1. I sometimes feel that introduction of LGBT in mankind is a step of evolution.

    Posted by: Markus | Oct 15, 2012 9:59:25 AM

  2. I would think the more appropriate term would be "intersex."

    Posted by: AdamK | Oct 15, 2012 10:52:03 AM

  3. I sincerely believe if it had been bullied by other birds it would be straight right now.

    Posted by: RomanHans | Oct 15, 2012 11:01:06 AM

  4. I think LGBT is a part of evolution. We've been around since, well, Day One. We are part of the Natural Order.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Oct 15, 2012 11:03:32 AM

  5. Now that it's famous that bird better watch out for flying bibles.

    Posted by: i could go on, but I won't | Oct 15, 2012 11:10:29 AM

  6. This is nothing new. Some species change genders when the male/female ratio is skewed. Some species disguise themselves as the opposite gender in order to get a chance to breed. And there are many creatures that are of both genders.

    Posted by: FuryOfFirestorm | Oct 15, 2012 11:32:26 AM

  7. Marcus/Jamal:

    LGBT has not been around since Day 1. LGBT has never been around. It doesn't exist. It is not a concept that describes reality.

    LGBs are people who are attracted to the same sex to one degree or another. That is what defines them as a group.

    By contrast, "transgender" is an umbrella term that describes a host of phenomena and behaviors that have nothing to do with sexual orientation. Most "transgenders" are not gay. And they can't even agree on what belongs under the umbrella or if there should even be one term to encompass disparate subgroups.

    To link LGB and T and present it to the world as if it were a fact of nature is a lie. LGBT is a sham contrived by a few political activists about 15 years ago. Unfortunately, it is perpetuated by bloggers like Andy Towle, who continue to post crap like this on the unthinking assumption that it has something to do with gay people.

    Posted by: Dave | Oct 15, 2012 11:46:24 AM

  8. As someone who has grown up raising domestic birds I can say this is not the only species of bird that does this. Lovebirds, parrotlets, and cockatiels.

    Posted by: Maryssa | Oct 15, 2012 11:48:29 AM

  9. Dave

    Your criticism is pointless carping. You are arguing about words in English, rather than concepts, and English hasn't been around since day 1 either.

    When you have nothing of substance to say, you don't have to post.

    Posted by: We are Here | Oct 15, 2012 12:16:22 PM

  10. Dave, while i agree that in principal LGB and T are not the same thing, we are both treated the same, therefore it makes sense to campaign for equality together.

    Posted by: Rovex | Oct 15, 2012 1:44:13 PM

  11. it's LGBT because we're stronger when we unite together.

    as every openly gay person who doesn't live in fear of What Bigots Think has already figured out.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Oct 15, 2012 1:49:08 PM

  12. @ DAVE:

    You are correct that "L,", "G," and "B" refer to sexual orientation, whereas "T" refers to gender identity. However, "Ls," "Gs," "Bs," and "Ts" all share the fact that they are sexual minorities. They are variations from the "one is either 100% biologically male or female, 100% self-identified as the gender that corresponds with one's biology, presents 100% of the time as that gender, and is only sexually attracted to the opposite sex/gender" paradigm that many people assume to be the only version of "normal."

    If you are cisgender and either gay or bisexual, you may feel that you have nothing in common with transgender people. But in the eyes of the ignorant, you and a transperson are equally immoral, deviant, and sick.

    That is why it makes sense from a political point of view to include "T" with "L," "G," and "B."

    Posted by: JOE 2 | Oct 15, 2012 1:55:53 PM

  13. Just what I said, Dave. We've been around since Day One. "We" meaning the sexual "other".

    By the way, Dave, kiss my LGBT ass.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Oct 15, 2012 3:03:26 PM

  14. @Joe 2:
    "But in the eyes of the ignorant, you and a transperson are equally immoral, deviant, and sick."

    You are absolutely correct. Some ignorant, bigoted people would lump gays and lesbians together with transsexuals, crossdressers and hermaphrodites. The proper response to that ignorance is to eradicate it through education. The worst possible response is to enshrine the ignorance and define ourselves by it.

    That is precisely what LGBT does and it is grossly offensive to both LGBs and Ts. You know, some anti-gay bigots think we are sex addicts and and some, like Scott Lively, think we are Nazis. Perhaps your inclination would be to add a SA and an N to our name and expand the "community." That's how the ignorant see us, so that's how we have to define ourselves. No thanks. The right course is to fight back and define yourself by what you are, not by what your enemies think you are.

    Posted by: Dave | Oct 15, 2012 5:31:51 PM

  15. Heh. Agree with the commenter who said that maybe "intersex" would be the more accurate term for this bellbird. But still, interesting story.

    Posted by: Tommy B | Oct 15, 2012 5:40:31 PM

  16. @ DAVE:

    Sorry, but your argument is not logical. First of all, gay men and lesbians CAN correctly be "lumped together" with "transsexuals, crossdressers, and hermaphrodites" (BTW, the correct term for the latter is "intersex"; "hermaphrodite" is considered to be an offensive term). Gay men, lesbians, transsexuals, transvestites, and intersex people are all, as I pointed out in my first post, sexual minorities.

    Second, adding "SA" for "sex addict" or "N" for "Nazi" would, indeed, be catering to the prejudices of the ignorant, whereas adding "T" to "LGB" is not. "LGBs" and "Ts" ARE sexual minorities. But there is no actual correlation between sexual orientation or gender identity, on one hand, and sex addiction or Naziism on the other.

    Posted by: JOE 2 | Oct 15, 2012 6:21:44 PM

  17. LGBT implies being born fully bodied female or fully male. No exceptions.

    There is no intersex in LGBT.

    Intersex is not "queer".

    Intersex is not trans.

    Before you try to add "intersex" to your labels and identity politics, perhaps you all should educate yourself first. Because otherwise it just stinks of appropriation.

    This isn't a game to intersex people.

    Posted by: realdeal | Oct 16, 2012 12:37:49 AM

  18. And intersex people are not "sexual minorities".

    Please stop using your fully bodied male or female privilege to erase and deny intersex people's very real suffering and experience.

    Posted by: realdeal | Oct 16, 2012 12:41:38 AM

  19. @ REALDEAL:

    Please stop making assumptions, and please stop projecting. What makes you assume that I am "fully bodied male or female"? And where, in my post, do I deny the suffering of intersex people?

    Sorry, but intersex folks ARE sexual minorities. The majority of people are not intersex. That doesn't mean that intersex people are abnormal, unnatural, deformed, or whatever other absurdities are believed by ignorant people; it just means that intersex people - like lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people - are a minority of the general population. That's just a fact. And, being a minority by virtue of possessing biologically atypical (please note: "atypical" is not a judgment, nor is it pejorative) sexual characteristics, intersex people are sexual minorities and, as such, have something in common with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

    Posted by: JOE 2 | Oct 16, 2012 1:47:05 AM

  20. @JOE 2

    Point taken on the assumption part, but I don't see how I was projecting.

    Yes, they are a minority. But by calling them a "sexual minority" you are (however well meaning) erasing the fact that defines intersex (being born with a naturally mixed/ambiguous body concerning male/female), as the word "sexual" does not refer to biological sex in a queer framework.

    I applaud you on your choice of words with "atypical".

    With the LGBT, intersex share the experience of being targets of homophobia, transphobia and misogyny, and are in dire need of human rights.

    Posted by: realdeal | Oct 16, 2012 3:32:16 PM

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