Queer Planet (2024) Movie Script

[dramatic music]
narrator: Few animals can
survive the harsh winter
of the Rocky Mountains.
[bear huffing]

But one icon of the West
thrives here.
300 pounds of rugged
all-American muscle
topped off with 4 feet
of rock-hard horn.
There's no prizes
for guessing their name...
Bighorn sheep.
The battle lines are drawn.
To the victor...
go the spoils.

But this isn't
a film about that.
[soft music]

This is a film
about something else entirely.

Love and family,
in all of their forms.
These two males might
be fighters,
but they're also lovers.
[wonderous choral music]

You think you know nature?
Think again.
Our planet is home
to over 11 million species...
Each with their own way
of being.
[hyenas chattering]
From flamboyantly gay flamingos,
to pansexual primates.
Sex-changing clown fish
to multi-gendered mushrooms,
and everything in between.
Nature is more queer than
you could possibly imagine.
But don't take my word for it.
Take theirs.
[lion growls]
And also theirs.
- Ready?
[upbeat music]
My name is
Dr. Christine Wilkinson.
- Dr. Ross Brooks.
- Antonia Forster.
- Bradley Trevor Greive.
- I'm a mycologist.
- A tropical marine ecologist.
- I'm a senior lecturer
in natural history.
- The founder and director
of the Vagina Museum.
[hen clucks]
narrator: Together, we'll be
going on a global search
for queerness
that goes far beyond
our human definition.
We'll be bucking gender norms,
breaking taboos,
and switching sexes
as we uncover the reasons
why we know so little
about how nature truly is.
- Queerness is abundant
in nature.
Queerness practically is nature.
- I like the word "queer"
because it defies boxes.
It gives you the flexibility
to be able to run the gamut
of behaviors.
- It's love, diversity,
and the most extraordinary,
complex relationships
you can possibly imagine.
- When it comes
to what Mother Nature intended,
she was pretty open-minded.
- If you're judgmental,
prudish, or squeamish,
then brace yourself,
because this is a queer planet.
[lion roars]
[siren wailing distantly]
And there's only one place
to start a trip like this...
[brassy music]

New York, New York.
A city of fame, fortune,
and even love.
Where Broadway dreams
really can come true,
even for a boy from Nebraska.
But this year's
hot queer power couple
are Elmer and Lima,
and we've got a tour
of their fabulous
upstate New York pad.
The only catch,
they're not people.
They're penguins.
[cheerful music]

Contrary to the gay agenda,
life isn't one big pool party.
- Penguins on average
will defecate
every five to seven minutes,
so that's great
job security for us.
There's a lot of cleaning
that goes into the exhibit.
Narrator: Debbie's been
looking after the penguins
at Rosamond Gifford Zoo
for the past 14 years.
- Hi, Vente.
Good boy.
Narrator: But it's
the first time she has had
a penguin couple
like these guys.
- Elmer and Lima,
they generally can be
very goofy.
They love kind of exploring
in piles of rocks
and picking them up
and bringing them
to various locations,
so they're actually
quite easygoing,
but also very curious
and just playful.
They are also very gay.
- They formed a bond
with each other
about a couple of years ago,
and through that we started
showing signs increasingly
that their bond was
becoming stronger,
and ultimately they built
a territory together,
then subsequently
built a nest together.
Elmer and Lima are special
in the fact
that they are two males
that together were successfully
able to raise a chick.
Narrator: Humboldt penguins
stay monogamous for life,
unlike half of West Hollywood.
And like many families,
these two decided to adopt.
But despite clearly living
a successful gay lifestyle,
critics say this is only
because they're in captivity.
I mean, come on.
- One of the disparaging
comments you'll hear
from people who don't know
anything about nature,
is that the reason
there are gay couples
is that there's not enough
of the opposite sex.
It's just not true.
They choose the partner
that they want.
- So seeing queer behavior
in the zoos is actually
quite common.
It's been observed in many
different zoos over the world,
both between two males
and two females.
It's been shown
that about 5% of pairings,
of pair-bonding, is actually
among same-sex partners,
and up to 10% or 12%
of copulations occur
between same-sex partners.
- But that kind of behavior
doesn't just happen there,
it's just
that it's more visible there.
Narrator: These two wouldn't
be stuck in the closet
in the wild,
but that's not common knowledge.
- It is extraordinary
that today still many people
do not know
about queerness in animals.
- Queer behavior in nature
has been known about
for a very long time.
Narrator: So why do people
know so little about it?
- Not everybody's happy to hear
that bighorn sheep are "gay,"
or that male penguins are
rearing offspring together,
and that can be very hard
on the researchers.
They can be ridiculed,
they can be ostracized,
their work can be buried.
Narrator: But the big,
queer truth is out there
if you're willing to look.
- All of the science
that we're talking about
about queerness in nature
is based on actual scientists'
observations and studies
in the field.
[penguin honks]
But finding some action
or observing in the wild,
it's not as easy as it sounds...
[dramatic music]

As this male king penguin
knows all too well.
After a week of hunting at sea,
he's headed back to shore...
Fighting the wind and waves.

- That great Southern Ocean
area of the subantarctic
has to be one of the toughest
places in the world
to do anything,
let alone live a normal life.
So for these beefy birds,
love doesn't come easy.
[penguins squawking]
- King penguins spend
some portion of their time
hunting for fish, swimming,
but a large majority
of their time is spent
standing around
in large colonies
in their own poo.
Wildly enough,
poo is the least of his worries.
He has to find his mate
at the largest
circuit party ever.
And king penguins are
practically identical,
male and female.
- Imagine you're standing
in a football field,
looking for your partner,
but there are thousands
of individuals,
they all look like your partner,
and they're all shouting
at the same time.
It's pretty challenging.
The problem with penguins is,
like that one friend after
a bottomless mimosa brunch,
they wander off,
they get lost,
start fights.
Luckily, like the wise
Kelly Clarkson once sang,
nature has prepared him
for a moment like this.
- So in penguins,
finding a mate is about
tuning in and becoming in sync.
- At the beginning
of the season,
king penguins spent
a lot of time bonding,
engaging in small dances,
and getting to know
each other's voices really well.
So that when they come back
from a trip and they're faced
with thousands
of identical individuals,
they're able to pick out
the voice of their partner
above the noise of the crowd.
[penguins calling]
[tender music]
Though slightly off tune,
he tracks his partner's voice.

And he's reunited again.
They take the time
to dance once more.
But he's not dancing with a she.
- So in wild king penguins,
in a 2010 study,
it was found
that no less than 28%
of the initial pair-bondings
at the beginning
of the breeding seasons was
between mates of the same sex.
- Having same-sex partnerships
in king penguins
is really important
to the colony,
and that's
because raising an egg
in such hostile conditions
is incredibly difficult.
It can't be left alone
or it will freeze or break,
and sometimes there are eggs
that don't have
a pair caring for them.
So a same-sex pair will take
an abandoned egg
and raise it
to a healthy individual
which can then join the group.
Despite how often this occurs,
studies on queer behavior
like this are unfortunately
few and far between.
- So king penguins live in
the harshest of environments,
being on land
in perpetual winters.
So they will have to endure
strong winds,
really chilled temperatures,
and just a very harsh place.
So in nature it's hard to study.
Narrator: But harsh climate
isn't the only reason
these observations are rare.
[dramatic percussive music]
Half a world away,
Africa's wildlife never ceases
to amaze and surprise.
- If you were a tourist
in Africa on safari,
you might see some things
that you weren't expecting.

[birds chirping]
- The plains of Africa are alive
with the sights and sounds
of same-sex relationships.
[hyenas moan]
narrator: These two male lions
are no exception.
[lions grumbling]
The paparazzi really
are everywhere, aren't they?
[camera clicks]
- One of the great clichs
in natural history is the lion
being the king of the jungle.
But the notion of a proud,
be-maned lion,
looking over his harem
of lionesses is,
I mean, it's only
a fleeting part
of that animal's life.
- Coalition of male lions
might only be able
to take over a pride
and mate with the females
for about two,
two and a half years.
Effectively male lions might
only have that one chance
to reproduce
for their entire lives.
[lion grumbling]
They have really beautiful
social bonds
amongst themselves,
so you'll have groups
of two or three
or maybe even more male lions
that travel together
in what's called a coalition,
that they spend most
of their time in.
Narrator: Lion bromances
are a long-standing,
intimate affair.
[cheerful music]
- So when I was doing
my research out in Kenya,
I would always see
this coalition of male lions
cuddling with one another,
right there on my doorstep
every morning.
And those males,
as far as we know,
are still together today.
They bond with one another
through a number
of various activities
like nuzzling one another
and cuddling with one another
and even mounting one another.

That's never shown
in the popular media.
Narrator: And there's
an intriguing reason why.
- In a lot of places, being
queer or being gay is illegal,
so it's very difficult
to try and do science
around these sorts
of queer animals.
Narrator: Which gives
a skewed perspective
on their lifestyles,
because male lions need
to stick together.
[bird screeches]
[tense music]

For a solitary lion,
the plains are
a dangerous place.
- Many animals face risks
from spotted hyenas,
and African lions are
no exception.
[hyenas chattering]
Caught out on his own,
this young male is in trouble.
- And they're gonna go
for the soft bits.
They're gonna try and grab you
by your genitalia.
How rude.
Luckily for him,
even a pack of hyena
are no match
for an all-male coalition.
- The fitness of a male lion
is a lot higher
when he's working with other
male lions in a coalition.
[lion roars, hyenas barking]
- He is able
to better defend himself,
work together,
and defend each other.
[hyenas whimpering
and chattering]
narrator: Together they
are able to survive, thrive,
and bond like the proud kings
they truly are.
[lions growling]
[playful music]
[bird squawks]
But they are far from being
the only queer animals
on the plains.

- The natural world
is incredibly queer,
and animals don't
prejudice against that.
There's a lot
of homosexual behavior,
and it's only in humans that
we have such a stigma about it.
Narrator: In an unexpected
plot twist, in some species,
not being queer
makes you the exception.
- Giraffe are sort of famous
for having
a very, very, very high
incidence of same-sex behavior,
especially among male giraffes.
- Giraffes are super queer.
That's the best way
I can describe them.
Narrator: Scientists aren't
exactly sure why this is,
but traveling in large,
same-sex herds
means that fights among
the young males are common.
And they found
a uniquely queer way
to settle their differences
and bond together.
- Giraffes engage
in a behavior called necking,
which involves rubbing their
necks on each other's bodies
and slamming their head
into each other.
And sometimes that seems
to be aggressive.
But in other times it seems
to be a type of foreplay,
because it's also
followed by things
like mounting and orgasms.
[tender music]

- One out of every four matings,
you're seeing actually
males mounting each other.
Most male giraffes will
get up to some sort
of same-sex behavior
throughout their lives,
some more consistently
than others.
- Gay interactions
between giraffes have been
explained away as a mistake
or as lack of access to females,
but actually
we've seen it directly,
even when there are
females present.

- So if you saw two human males
having sex with one another,
you wouldn't say
that it's dominance.
So why is it
that when we're looking
at animals like giraffe
or lions,
that we always wanna say
that it's dominance?
Why can't it be something else?
Narrator: So despite the
difficulty in studying them,
it's clear that there are
plenty of gay animals.
But it begs the question,
are there any lesbians?
[exciting music]
a country of beauty,
fabulous sushi,
and a troop of macaques
who skipped gay ski week
to find another way
to stay warm in the snow.
[macaques squealing]
[serene music]

- During the winter,
they will spend
a lot of their time
in these hot springs.
It's very, very cold in Japan
around that time of year.
And they also use
the opportunity
to bond with each other
and to spend time with other
members of their tribe.
Narrator: But fitting in
isn't always easy.
This young female needs
to do some networking.
Don't get your phone wet!
- Japanese macaques are
very matriarchal,
so their hierarchy
is really dependent
on making these bonds.
Narrator: But in macaques,
it's not about being a dom.
Intimacy is key to building
strong relationships.
- Japanese macaques are
extremely lesbian.
The females are constantly
having relationships
with other females.
Often if they're given a choice
between having a relationship
with a male or with a female,
they'll pick the female.
- Macaques are a species
where it's been shown
that females can have orgasms.
They measure things
like uterine contractions
and blood flow and heart rate,
and those things line up
with the experience
that human females are having
during orgasm,
so it's possible that they
just like mounting each other
purely for the sexual
What better way to spend a day
than in a hot spa
with your new partner.
Macaques, lions, giraffes,
and even penguins all show
lesbian or gay behaviors,
and they aren't alone.
[upbeat music]
- More than 1500 different
species have shown
to engage in homosexual or
pansexual/bisexual behaviors.
- We find it
throughout the animal kingdom
in all kinds of circumstances.
And it seems not to be
something that your learn
or that's an influence
that comes from other people,
but something that's
more innate than that.
- Queer sex is so omnipresent,
so universal in every stratum
of life on Earth
that it's absolutely clear
this is what nature has
always intended.
Narrator: If we know
that queerness in nature
is so widespread,
then why has it been trapped
in the closet for so long?

Like many unpleasant secrets,
the answer can be found
in a museum in England.
- Queer behavior's
been prevalent
since the dawn of time.
One of the great agonies
in my life, and I'm sure yours,
is I've never seen
a dinosaur penis.
Narrator: While some things
have been sadly lost
to the passage of time,
one man's journals reveal
why queer research
remained buried.
- George Murray Levick
was a Navy man,
but he was also a biologist
around the beginning
of the twentieth century.
- Levick went to a part
of Antarctica
called Victoria Lands,
and in particular,
the colony of Adlie penguins.
He was kind of marooned there
for about nine months.
Narrator: But what he found
was, um, unexpected.
- Animals of the same sex
having sex with each other,
and that really weirded him out.
He did not like it at all.
- Levick's notebooks are
absolutely fascinating,
particularly when he's recording
the sexual habits
of these animals.
At some point, he starts
writing in the Greek alphabet.
At other points, he goes back
to text written in English
and pastes over them with
the text rewritten in Greek
so that others
who are not elite physicians
or scientists
who can understand Greek,
that they won't understand
the really rude bits.
- I think people aren't aware
of queer behaviors
in the animal kingdom
because historically,
it's either been suppressed
or been considered
too taboo to publish.
- So this is a very
typical example
of how knowledge of queer bodies
and queer behaviors
in nature gets lost.
And certainly growing up gay
in the 1970s and '80s,
there was nothing like this
in the nature books that I read
or on the nature programs
that I saw on the television.
It's knowledge that has been
almost completely lost.
Narrator: But that is all
starting to change.
[upbeat brassy music]

New research is uncovering
just how queer nature is.
Across the world, it's
being celebrated with pride.

As the rainbow rolls
across the globe,
in Mexico, things are just
getting started.
Over 20,000 people have
shown up in Mrida
to show their true colors
and their best
Gaga choreography.
But they aren't
the only ones dancing.
[atmospheric music]

On a nearby salt lake,
an iconic bisexual bird
is about to shake
its tail feathers.
[birds squawking]
- The Yucatn in Eastern Mexico
is probably one of my favorite
places on the planet.
So many distinct ecosystems.
And one of the most
are these incredibly salty
Very shallow,
gets very, very hot.
The water is basically toxic
to just about anything,
and yet these flamboyant
filter feeders
come honking in there
and just thrive.
As the summer heats up,
a young flamingo is looking
for a mate,
male or female.
And like so many of us,
she does this by dancing.
Like a troop
of soggy salsa dancers
on a swampy stage,
they line up.
Wow, that was a mouthful.
- You have this bright pink bird
with a bizarre-looking bill,
a hooked, beautiful curved neck,
and strutting around
like a prima ballerina.
- They all flock
in one direction,
turn their head, and all flock
in the other direction.
[flamingo honks]
[flamingos squawking]
[downtempo salsa music]
They're looking
for an individual
that is in sync with them
that might be appropriate
to mate with.

[music distorts and stops]
[music crescendos]
The young flamingo has found
her perfect partner...
[atmospheric music]

But despite mating
and building a nest,
these two ladies won't
have an egg of their own.
However, this queer couple's
time to shine
will come soon enough.
[playful music]
Flamingos have no teeth,
claws, or natural defenses,
which makes them very,
very jumpy.
- So if there is something
that is presenting
a danger to them,
their first port of call
is to run away.
- And that's a big problem
because that means
all of the eggs and young are
left behind and abandoned.
And when the panic's over,
it's down to the young couple
to pick up the pieces
and adopt an egg.
- You might think
that gay animals,
because they can't have
their own kids,
are somehow less successful
in the natural world.
But actually we know
that there are many examples
of same-sex partnerships
that have wonderful outcomes
and high success rates
for their offspring.
Unlike the penguins,
love for a flamingo
is a fleeting summer thing.
- Flamingos are
sequential monogamists,
so what that means is they'll
pair up for a season,
then new year, new guy.
- A 2006 study showed
that up to 35% of the birds
formed relationships
that were not
the typical male-female pair.
They might have been
two males pairing up,
two females pairing up,
two females and a male,
two males and a female,
or even four of them together.
So when the chicks are raised,
they move on,
and find a new partner
or partners the next year.
Male or female,
it makes little difference
to these beautiful
bisexual birds.
[upbeat music]
- I think humans can
all agree with each other
that sex is not just
for reproduction.
Sex is for pleasure.
It's for social bonding.
[dove cooing]
- Some animals, God bless them,
are not in any way shy
about their sexual appetites,
and sexually active animals
have three things in common.
They're biologically young,
they're generally single,
and they're not wearing pants.
[birds chirping]
narrator: Across the globe,
in the jungles of Africa,
the animals certainly aren't
shy about what they want.
- Jungles, reefs, and other
environments are so loud
because every animal there
is calling out to find a mate.
[various animal calls]
- All those calls
through the jungle,
it's like advertising,
"Hey, I'm DTF."
[atmospheric music]
Basically, like, a really
audible Tinder profile.
[primate hooting]
Please have sex with me

narrator: We've already met
some gay, lesbian,
and bisexual animals.
Now it's time to meet a tribe
of pansexual primates
that are always swiping right.
Unlike us,
these matriarchal apes use sex
to solve all their issues.
Like that one friend
during Pride month.
Critically endangered
in the wild,
they've continued their
sexual habits in sanctuaries.
- Every bonobo has sex
with both males and females
of multiple ages, and sometimes
multiple partners at once.
And so they're this real
rainbow of diversity
in terms of who they will
have sex with
and in the combinations
that they'll use.
[bonobos chattering]
narrator: But it isn't
all fun and games.
With over a hundred
members of the tribe
to keep fed and happy,
there's some serious
socializing to do.
- They settle almost all
of their differences sexually.
[Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall
of the Mountain King"]
So we have makeup sex.
They have,
"let's resolve this" sex,
and get back to having normal,
celebratory food sex,
and then after-sex sex,
and a quickie
just on top of that.

- The human equivalent
of bonobo society would be
having sex to say thank you,
having sex to say sorry,
having sex to say "Can I steal
a bit of your dinner?"
They're very promiscuous,
and they're very free
with sharing their love.
[music crescendos]

[bonobos squealing]
Mass pansexual orgy complete,
food distributed,
time for a nap.
- Animals that have a lot
of sex tend to have less war.
I don't know
how that extrapolates
to human society,
but to be honest,
we should all probably get laid
a little more than we do.
[upbeat music]
narrator: All animals
might not embrace sex
as vigorously as bonobos,
but they certainly found
countless ways
to get their rocks off...

- Animals have a much shorter
life span than us,
generally speaking,
and that means
that their window
for carnal pleasure
and reproduction
is even tighter.
[dog whines]
- Dolphins have almost every
sexual behavior you can imagine,
and they've probably invented
some that humans haven't.
- We see things like
males having sex,
females having sex
with each other,
and also masturbation using
things like inanimate objects
or even dead fish or eels.
- People masturbate,
animals masturbate.
They love it.
Some of them go beyond that
and build their own sex toys.
Now, there are a number
of monkeys and ferrets
who will use a beautiful, soft,
smooth pebble as a vibrator.
Narrator: Despite all
the clearly abundant queer sex
and diversity in nature,
some folks still cling
to the idea it is unnatural.

So where does
that stigma come from?
The answer, once again,
lies partly in the notes
of an old, white Victorian man.
[exciting music]

- Charles Darwin is the most
famous biologist
who has ever lived.
A very, very famous man
whose name was known
all over the world.
And his legacy lives on
to this very day.

But it isn't all positive.
- Oh, God, Darwin.
- Charles Darwin made fantastic
contributions to science,
but he did have
some blind spots.
- Darwin was an incredible
revolutionary mind of his time,
but he was of his time.
And queerness at that time
wasn't something
that people were talking about.
So for the most part,
he didn't,
which left a troubled legacy.
- Today we talk about people
living in the closet.
I think it's perfectly
reasonable to say
that Darwin's writings
and much of his science was
kept in the closet.
Darwin imbued his texts
with the gendered stereotypes
of his age.
Images of fussy female birds
and aggressive male beetles.
Narrator: And when he did
write about queerness...
[sucks teeth]
Ugh, it was worse.
- So here's an example
of Darwin referring
to queer behaviors
in very negative language.
He writes
in "The Descent of Man,"
"The greatest intemperance
is no reproach with savages.
"Utter licentiousness
and unnatural crimes prevail
to an astounding extent."
So when you have
one of the most famous men
on the planet referring
to queer sex
as "utter licentiousness
and unnatural crimes"
well, that's not something
that's easy
to fight back against.
[unsettled music]

For better or worse,
our society has been
heavily influenced
by the Victorian era.
Narrator: But you can only
deny true nature for so long.
[music brightens]
- Biological reality explodes
the Victorian
heteronormative myth.
Life is much more complex,
beautifully complex than you've
been led to believe.

narrator: Darwin may have
placed gender roles on animals
that mimicked our own,
but take a closer look at nature
and you'll soon discover,
it couldn't care less
what we think.
[Latin guitar music]
We've seen plenty
of gay animals,
but back in Mexico,
one polyamorous bird
is doing its best to upset
all our gender norms.
Polyamorous want a cracker?

- Jacanas are a tropical
wetlands bird.
Huge feet...
You'd know them immediately.
Very hard to buy shoes.
But it isn't shoes
this Jacana is concerned with,
even though they should be.
[tense Western music]

They are on patrol.

- Jacanas are intensely
In most pairs or groups,
there's one larger individual,
and they will
roam around the territory,
defending it from other
individuals of the same sex.
[tense music]
narrator: This feisty bird
won't take prisoners.
[jacanas cawing]
[Western music resumes]
[jacanas squawking]

They have sharp spurs
on their feet and wings.
And they can fight to the death.
- Now, you might assume that
that territorial, aggressive
individual is the male,
but you'd be wrong.
[hard rock music]
narrator: In jacanas,
the females are polyamorous
and wear the proverbial pants.

And this one is asserting
her dominance.
- The libido
of the female jacana
is always dialed up to 11.
It's both exhausting
and inspiring
to even think about them.
Not only
will they successfully court
and woo a large number of males,
each of whom is assigned to
look after a nest of her eggs,
they're not satisfied.
They want bigger and better
all the time.
So if they find a male
that they like
who's already nursing a clutch
of a rival female's eggs,
they will stomp on those eggs
and smash them to smithereens
so the male is now unemployed,
looking for a new job.
Guess what?
We have an opening,
and it's very, very sexy.
[jazzy music]
With her territory secure,
it's down to her harem
of males to raise the babies.

- We often have assumptions
about animals,
particularly watching
this kind of behavior,
that males are more
territorial, more aggressive,
and that females are more
responsible for raising young.
And that's
definitely not the case
when it comes to jacanas.
Narrator: These queer birds
flip the script
when it comes to who does what
in a relationship,
and with how many partners.
[atmospheric music]
And there's nothing unusual
about that in nature.

Further along the coast,
some strange little horses
are bucking gender roles harder,
redefining what it means
to be male.

- They live in mangrove swamps
where there are
these really big trees
with these huge, huge roots.
So they're quite magical,
quite mysterious-looking.
Narrator: The mangroves
provide a chic home
for countless aquatic oddities,
none more so...
[playful music]
Than this male seahorse.
- So seahorses are
really weird fish.

What they are is a fish where
its tail sort of disappeared,
turned into, like,
a gripping monkey tail.
So seahorses need something
to grab onto with their tails
so that they can stay
relatively sedentary.
- Doesn't make sense really
from, I think,
a physics point of view,
but that is what they do.
Bit awkward.
For an aquatic animal,
he really is pretty bad
at swimming.
And when you're surrounded
by predators,
that's a problem.
[ominous music]

- They can't cope
with lots of currents,
lots of water movement.
- Seahorses are really good
at camouflaging themselves,
really good at hiding.
Of course they have to be
if they want
to keep themselves safe
from predators.
But that does have
the side effect
of making it a bit harder also
to attract and find mates.
Narrator: So when they do
stumble upon another seahorse,
they tend to get
a bit... clingy.
[playful music]

They create monogamous pairs,
often for life,
and like all good relationships,
that takes a bit of work.
- Every morning they'll meet
each other and they will...
They'll actually do a dance
to sort of reinforce their bond.
And what we find is,
they let go of the thing
they're holding onto, and they
can swim out into the water,
spiral around each other,
and just spend a lot of time
just basically being
near each other,
reinforcing this pair-bond.
It's really important
in these poor-swimming,
quite rare animals.

narrator: And it's during
this awkward, beautiful dance
that these queer little
animals get even queerer.
- What's interesting
about seahorses
is that they buck the trend
of who is pregnant.
[flamenco music]
- Seahorses, when they mate,
will swim together,
and then the female, using
an organ called an ovipositor,
which is a bit like
a penis for eggs,
will place them
inside the male's brood pouch,
which is on his sort of
seahorse tummy.
Narrator: She'll lay
up to 1,000 eggs inside him,
and now it's his job
to carry them
until they're ready to hatch.
- As humans, we tend to presume
that sex is male-female
and that birth is the female
giving birth to a live baby.
Seahorses are really unusual
among fish in the fact
that it's not the female
that has babies,
it's the male.

- So if we're thinking
of animals
that flip the traditional
gender roles,
seahorses take the biscuit.
But there is one animal
that takes gender inversion
and role reversal
a step further.
[tense music]

[animal lowing]
And we've met them already...
spotted hyenas.
Their ruthless cunning
is no laughing matter.
[hyena barks]
- People think
that hyenas are dirty
and ugly and gross,
and that they are only
and they're always eating
a bunch of crap.
[flies buzzing]
- But, honestly,
that actually couldn't
be further from the truth.
This clan has a fresh carcass.

But this isn't a free-for-all.
The alpha eats first.
- According to Western society,
males need to be the biggest,
the fattest,
the strongest,
the ones in charge.
But spotted hyenas upend that.
Spotted hyenas are
the opposite of that.
Females are in charge.
They're the ones that are
calling all the shots.
Their body size is larger.
They're more aggressive.
They also have a penis?
[ethereal music]
- It's very hard to tell
if a hyena is female or male
by looking at their genitals.
You need to be a particularly
skilled scientist
to be able
to tell the difference.
And the reason for that
is because hyenas
have absolutely massive,
massive clitorises.
They actually look
almost indistinguishable
from penises.

- So spotted hyenas,
for those of us who know,
are famous for their genitalia.
So female hyenas have what's
called a pseudo-phallus.
In fact, the pseudo-phallus
is really, really amazing.
It also does some pretty
incredible things.
Like get an erection?
- [chuckles]
Hyenas have the best genitals,
and I know that's
a weird thing to say,
but it's true.
[playful music]
narrator: But they do have
some down sides.

- The spotted hyena is one
of the only species,
if not the only species,
with an internal
vaginal opening.
So they have sex, they pee,
and they give birth
through their clitoris
which, yes,
it sounds absolutely horrific,
and it can be, in some cases.
narrator: Despite being
bigger, more aggressive,
and having a larger phallus
than the males...
Atta girl...
These alpha females
are also incredible moms.
[tender music]

Raising even their smallest
female cub
to be dominant to all the males.
[cubs yipping]
- Spotted hyenas are in fact
the queens of the plains.
I would argue that they're
also in some ways
the kings of the plains as well.
Narrator: These much maligned
and misunderstood animals
are just one more beautiful
feather in nature's queer cap.
And a reminder
that when it comes to family,
there's no such thing as normal.
[upbeat music]
- I find studying
the natural world fascinating
because it helps us
to understand what could be,
rather than what is,
especially when we take
learnings from that
into the human world.
[macaw squawks]
- Nature is thrillingly
and profoundly tolerant,
and it has to be,
because every niche in every
behavior in every species
somehow contributes
to all life on Earth.
We need everybody.
We need everything.
Narrator: And that includes
a whole bunch
of weird, wonderful,
and unsettling creatures.
- You might not think
that queer insects exist,
but in fact
within the insect world,
there are loads and loads
of different ways
of being a gender or having sex.
You can add up
all of the different species
of mammals, of birds,
of reptiles, fishes,
even things like worms
and slugs and snails,
and that number
doesn't come close
to the number of different ways
of being an insect.
[birds chirping]
[atmospheric music]
narrator: Female hyenas might
run the show,
but one group of insects
have gone a step further.

They've gotten rid of males
almost entirely.

[dramatic electronic music]

- You find leafcutter ants in
lush rainforest environments,
places like Costa Rica,
and they're very noticeable
because you might not see them,
but you'll see little pieces
of leaf walking around
on the forest floor
or in the branches of trees.
There are so many insects here
that they outnumber
every other species combined.
- Although lots of people find
insects small and annoying,
they are insects.
This isn't
"Planet of the Apes."
This is planet of the bugs.

narrator: Millions
of these ants are busy
cutting and carrying
literal tons of leaves
back to their nest.
But life isn't that simple.
- Worker ants are
incredibly strong.
They chop pieces of leaf
and carry them,
which are up to 20 times
their own body weight.
But unfortunately, they're also
the target of lots
of different predators.
Everything is out to eat ants.
[upbeat brassy music]
- And so to try
to solve this problem,
the ants have evolved to have
guards within their own colony.
They're huge,
big bruisers of ants.
They've got massive heads,
huge jaws,
and I can tell you that
they give a really nasty pinch.

- What's surprising is that,
despite looking
completely different,
those two ants are nearly
genetically identical.
They're both
from the same species,
the same colony,
they're both female,
and they're sisters.
In fact, all the ants
in the colony are female.
It's a remarkable asexual,
single-gender society,
and you can't get
queerer than that.
- The nest of a leafcutter ant
is like a giant,
subterranean society,
so that all of these individuals
inside that colony are female,
and each one of them has
a slightly different role.
And at the heart of the colony
lies the queen.
- The queen's job is
to lay eggs.
She lays up to 20 eggs
every minute,
which is nearly 30,000 eggs
every day.
Every individual that you see,
those are all of her daughters.
[fantastical music]
The sex of an ant doesn't
depend on its sex chromosomes,
but the number of copies
of chromosomes that it has.
So if a queen fertilizes
an egg, it becomes female,
and if she doesn't
fertilize it, it becomes male.
That also means
that male ants have no father.
Males are only created
once every year or two.
Their sole purpose is
to migrate to a new colony,
have sex with the queen,
and add some genetic diversity.
- For a male ant,
life is kind of tough.
They don't last for very long.
Most of them, they die virgins.
The incredible thing is,
ants aren't the only animals
to have single-gender societies.
[mystical music]
even termites
all have same-sex families.
But it isn't just insects
who do this.

There are some incredible
mammal families too,
like the one living beneath
the sandy soils
of Southern Africa.
[eerie atmospheric music]

[animal squeaks]
[playful music]
- Okay, how to describe
a naked mole rat?

- A naked mole rat looks
a lot like a human phallus.
They don't have any hair,
they're kind of wrinkly,
and they have
these giant teeth...
That's not like a human phallus.
[mole rat sniffing]
A penis with teeth.
No, thanks.
This male mole rate might
look remarkable
and remarkably familiar,
but his looks are not the most
unique thing about him.
- Some of my favorite qualities
about these extraordinarily
But emphasis on extraordinary...
Little mammals is that,
first of all,
they can tolerate
very low levels of oxygen.
They don't need to breathe
hardly at all.
[jazzy music]
Number two, they have
almost no pain receptors.

And number three, well,
they behave like a giant
colony of insects.
Like ants, only the queen
and a couple of males
ever have sex.
- Basically you have
this queen mole rat
that is significantly bigger,
and gets bigger every year,
than all the other mole rats.
Everybody else, asexual
worker bees effectively,
except they're little sort of
tiny, fleshy beanbag mammals.
[dramatic string music]
narrator: The queen's hormones
suppress the sex drive
of the rest of the colony,
stopping any infighting.
- As a result,
they're highly inbred.
In fact, they're almost
clones of each other.

narrator: These super close
siblings cooperate to ensure
the colony can survive
the harsh desert environment.
- Nature is full of surprises,
and often not
what it seems to be.
That's the glorious thing
about it.
[mole rats snoring]
[electronic beat]

A lot has changed
in the past century
since Darwin.
We've moved from the nuclear
norms of Queen Victoria
to perfectly permed
"Stepford Wives"...
- Darling, you couldn't
be clumsy; you're perfect.
Free-loving hippies,
and into the modern millennia.
But we've also had time
to take a closer look...
[elephant lows]
At nature.

- So many different ways
in the animal kingdom
of having a family.
One male and one female,
two males, two females,
groups of females,
groups of males,
single parents.
There's so many different ways
to have a family.
It's taken us quite a while
to catch up with the wild,
who have been happily raising
diverse families
for millions of years.
- Normal does not exist
especially not in nature,
and it doesn't even exist
among people.
Narrator: We've seen
that animals can be gay,
bi, pan, and even asexual.
So what other surprises does
this queer planet hold?
[hard rock music]
The best place to continue
our search for queerness
is one of the most diverse
habitats on the planet.

- Fish are the most diverse
group of vertebrates
on the planet.
Of things that have got
a backbone,
half of those things
on the planet are fishes.
Narrator: Nearly 80% of all
animals live in the ocean,
and they rarely
follow the rules...
[exciting music]
Especially when it comes to sex.
[ethereal music]
Take hawksbill turtles.
This female is
on an epic migration
back to her birthplace.
However, she wasn't
born a female,
but intersex,
neither male or female,
her gender determined
by the environment.

They can't lay their eggs
so this female will do so
at night on land.
[tense atmospheric music]
And that's no easy task
when you've got flippers
instead of feet.

- Turtles have got to find
not only the right beach
to lay their eggs on, but
the right place on that beach.
They've got to go
up the beach far enough
so that the eggs don't
get swamped at high tide,
and they need to be able
to dig a hole deep enough
to maintain a temperature
that's good for the eggs.
[turtle bellows]
Which is unfortunate,
as the sea turtle's sex
is determined
by temperature.
- If the temperature's low,
they turn into males.
If the temperature's high,
they turn into females.
And there's a sweet spot
right in the middle
where you get some males
and some females,
the kind of normal way
of hatching as a turtle.
Narrator: The sweet spot
is around 86 degrees.
3 degrees more or less,
and they all end up
a single gender.
But for the baby turtles,
that's the least
of their worries right now.
[beachy music]

First, they've got
to make it to the ocean.

And everything wants
to eat them.
[seagulls squawking]
[action music]

- In the entire life span
of a female turtle,
she might lay thousands of eggs,
but on average of course,
only one or two of those
are likely to survive.
Narrator: And that creates
a bigger problem.
- You might think that hatching
on this really dangerous
beach environment
is the biggest peril
that these babies face,
but in fact
there's another thing,
the temperature of the nest
in which they're laid.
Because as the climate is
heated by human activity,
the temperatures are increasing,
and we're finding
more and more nests
that hatch all female.
Narrator: Without our help,
it may not be long
before these aquatic wonders
disappear entirely.
[upbeat music]
But turtles are far
from the only aquatic species
whose sex is flex.

On the other side of the ocean
lies one of the most
colorful places on the planet,
full of wonderfully
queer creatures.
- If you're lucky enough
to submerge yourself
in the aquatic wonderland
that is a coral reef,
one of the first things
you'll notice,
there's just this cacophony
of other noises going on.
And what you're listening to,
a lot of different
marine animals,
specifically fish, having sex,
and they're quite vocal
about it,
which I love.
And not just having sex,
but changing sex too.
- The majority of organisms
on coral reefs
are actually hermaphrodites,
whether that means
they change sex
or are multiple sexes
at the same time.
- More than 500 species
of fish alone
change sex at least once
in their lifetimes.
And one trans fish
is pretty famous
in its own right.
- Now, I happened to have some
small roles on "Finding Nemo."
It's a wonderful,
Academy Award-winning film,
but there are a couple
of factual errors.

narrator: For a start,
clown fish family life
is nowhere near as straight
as most of us think.
- So they don't have
what we would describe
as, like,
a traditional family unit.
They've got one female,
one male,
and then many juvenile males
all taking care
of the babies together.
Narrator: No joke.
The male clown fish do
most of the housework,
keeping the eggs
and the anemone clean.
The female does the fighting.
- So clown fish live
in an anemone.
The stinging tentacles mean
that other potential predators
are put off attacking
the clown fish.
But it's not just
a one-way interaction.
The clown fish also helps
defend the anemone.
They can attack
surprisingly viciously.
I have a friend who has a scar
from a clown fish.
Narrator: But stray
too far from safety...
[ominous music]

And the family can end up
without a matriarch,
which is a problem.
These feisty females stay
in their own anemone
their whole lives,
so another won't swim over
and replace her.
- So in the movie,
when Nemo's mother, Coral,
unfortunately is killed,
what would actually happen was,
his father would then become
his new mother.
They physically change sex,
genitals and all.
- His father would change gender
and become the dominant female
in the group.
And Nemo would become
a suitor to his new mum.
It's awkward.
- So it's basically, you know,
your traditional
boy-meets-girl story,
except for, you know,
the female dies,
and then the male turns
into a female.
- Then the boy
that was hanging around
will then grow up into a man,
and then they'll have sex,
and this will go on forever
with constant changing
in from male to female,
and then getting eaten
and disappearing.
- Thanksgiving is a little bit
weird for them,
but that is exactly
how it happens.
Reefs are a lot queerer
than Hollywood would
have you believe.
[atmospheric music]
Even the coral is in
on the action.
- You might not think
that the aquatic wonderland
that is coral reef is a haven
for physical sex change,
but it absolutely is.
- Coral generally looks
a bit like a colorful,
maybe a little bit slimy rock.
But what it actually is,
it's a little bubble
with tentacles
and a mouth/anus in the middle.
For the most part,
corals do just sit there.
They just sit on a reef,
they're glued down,
literally cemented down.
Narrator: But that all changes
in the dark
when the party gets started.
[techno pop music]

- You'll see them with
their tentacles out feeding.
Some of them will
vomit up their guts.
They can fight
with their neighbors.
They also have sex with them.

And while their bodies are far
from flexible,
sexually, they're anything but.
- 70% to 80% of corals
are hermaphroditic,
meaning that they are
multiple sexes,
whether at different times
in their life
or at the same time.
Narrator: Giving these
sedentary filter feeders
a much higher chance
of finding a partner
of the right sex.
And on a warm spring night,
they all spawn together,
increasing those odds
even further.
[mysterious music]
- You have this great,
vast aquatic ejaculation,
a cloudy sea,
and any eggs laid in that time
will be fertilized, but by whom?
We don't know and we don't care
as long as it works.

- Everything's floating up.
It's a pretty incredible
Until you realize
that you're swimming around
in coral sperm and eggs.
Narrator: In this upside-down
underwater world,
it's clear that things are
far more complicated
than once thought.
[upbeat music]
Turtles aren't born
male or female,
fish change sex,
and coral like
to do it together,
no matter the sex
they currently are.

- Everything you were taught
as a kid is wrong.
The facts are this:
the gender-sex spectrum is real,
and it's not a straight line
from straight to queer.
It's a halo,
a sphere if you will.
There's so much room, and
nature is constantly changing.
And you and I, we all fit
together in there somewhere.
- As humans,
we've got this innate need
to categorize things,
to put them in boxes.
In reality, we're trying to put
lots of things
that are actually spectra
into categories
where they just don't fit.
- The notion that you would
just have one sexual identity
or preference is very,
very rare.
The point is,
animals change their gender
and their partners.
It's normal.
It's life.
It's how things work.

It's clear that sex and gender
are incredibly flexible
in the wild.
So it begs the question,
how much more fluid can they be?
It's time to find out.
[ethereal music]

Hiding amongst the sea grasses
lurks a creature
with a surprising number
of genders.
- My favorite example
of "queer behavior"
in animals is in cuttlefish.

- One of the most remarkable
things about cuttlefish
is their ability
to change color.
They can even change
the texture of their skin.
- It's like a high-definition
television suit,
and, now,
it's used for camouflage,
but it's also used
for sexual advertising.
Narrator: This little male
is currently using both
to approach a female.
But he isn't alone.
Other males are interested
in her too.
And they are much bigger
and showier than he is.
[dynamic electronic music]

- So these adult male
cuttlefish will
display different colors,
and they'll often be
quite bright reds and whites,
showing that they're
strong and fit.
Narrator: That little guy
can't compete directly,
and never will be able to.
So he doesn't.
- These can become
what we call sneaker males.
These small sneaker males
could be considered
a third gender.
[sly music]
These permanently smaller,
third-gender cuttlefish really
are masters of disguise.

- So these males pretend
to be female
to avoid having the stuffing
beaten out of them
by these big, brawny,
beefy males.
- Sneaky males will display
female coloration on one side
and even pretend
to hold an egg sac
to complete the illusion
of being female,
sneak past the larger male,
and then display
typical male colors
in order to woo females
and reproduce.
I think that's a brilliant
example of adaptation
in the animal kingdom
in a queer way.
Narrator: And they are
remarkably successful...
Perhaps a little too successful.
- The camouflage is so effective
that males will often mistake
other males for being females
and rather
than just let them pass,
will actually mate with them.
- What we find,
these small males are that good
at this behavior
that they can't even
tell each other apart,
and we end up seeing
about 40% homosexual
between sneaker male cuttlefish.
Narrator: Which may come
as a bit of a surprise
for both parties.
And cuttlefish aren't
the only animals
our narrow notion of gender.
[upbeat music]

Back on dry land...
And you couldn't get
any drier...
In the deserts of Arizona,
an otherwise unremarkable
lizard is playing
a remarkable game...
of genders.
[Western music]

- I'm always hunting
for the small things
that people don't notice,
the small lizard
that might run away
as you walk near it,
or the little lizard hiding
underneath a branch
in the shade.
Narrator: This female is
looking for a mate,
and while you might
find dating hard,
for a side-blotched lizard,
it's uniquely tricky.
- It's amazing that these
unremarkable lizards have
one of the most complex mating
strategies on the planet.
- They have up to five genders,
three different types of males
and two different types
of females.
And they each do things
that impact
their ability to mate
with the opposite sex.
[exciting music]
- So these are not just five
different ways of behaving.
They are physically different.
The males have different
penises for example,
as well as being
different colors.

narrator: The physical
differences, including size,
are determined by their genes.
And each gender has different
survival advantages
depending on the environment.
They're often called
the Rochambeau,
or Rock-Paper-Scissor lizards,
because of the mating game
the different genders play.
- The rules of the game
go like this.
- Well, you know,
your orange-throated male's
your machismo.
He's gonna be the male
that's out there to mate
with as many females
as he possibly can.
Your blue-throated
male's probably
your sensitive, new age guy
that really just wants
a partner.
Your yellow male
on the other hand,
he's, like, living loose
and fancy-free.
[upbeat electronic music]
He doesn't really have
any ties whatsoever.
- Orange beats blue,
blue beats yellow,
but yellow beats orange.
And that doesn't include
the two female genders,
who are two different colors
and lay different size eggs.
Successfully mating means
finding the right match,
and she's spotted
a blue-throated male.
[tense music]
- The blue males tend to
defend areas that are smaller
and may contain
only a single female.

narrator: Unfortunately,
an approaching orange male
has his own ideas.
[music builds]

- They will aggressively
defend their territories,
and woe betide any other male
that comes into their territory.

But the game's not done yet.
Here comes yellow.
[Western music]
- The yellow-throated lizards,
now, these are
the sneaky maters.
They'll hang
around the territory
of those dominant
orange male lizards,
and they'll try
to sneak in and mate
with one of their females.
Narrator: It's
an ever-evolving competition
allowing the local population
to quickly adapt
to different environments.

- What happens
in nature is that,
in these polymorph populations,
these different types fluctuate.
- So it's this kind of circular
game of sex,
and it's a game
that the lizards have been
playing for millennia.
Narrator: While nobody likes
games in relationships,
these lizards challenge
our notions
of what gender really means.
But if you think
they have a lot of genders,
then hold onto your genitals,
because they've got nothing
on the woodlands...
[country rock music]
[birds chirping]

[birds chirping]
Where deep in the leaf litter
live some incredible organisms
with a mind-boggling array
of non-binary sexes.
[fantastical music]
- So it's easy to be enamored
with, like, big species,
like lions, tigers,
bears, right.
And fungi maybe don't have
that immediate shock value,
but once you really start
to pay attention to them,
you see all sorts of beautiful,
magical things
that they're doing.
They can be yellow,
they can be white,
they can be pink even.
They come in all sorts
of sizes, shapes.

narrator: In fact,
these otherworldly oddities
are essential to life on Earth.
- They are everywhere
you can imagine,
the surface of your hands,
inside your stomach,
the ocean, the tops of trees.
They're everywhere doing
so many critical functions
for our planet
and for our survival.
And to fill all these roles,
they need to be super diverse,
- Fungi have, as far as we know,
up to 23,000 sexes
and maybe more.
That's just what we've
discovered so far.
[upbeat music]
narrator: Fungi are neither
plants nor animals,
so don't have sex chromosomes.
Instead, small regions of
their DNA determine their sex,
which creates a ton
of physical variation
when they mate,
allowing them to thrive
almost anywhere on the planet.
- Everyone should have a fungus
that they're in love with.

With so much fluidity,
it's clear
that nature is non-binary
when it comes to sex and gender.
So what is the most common
lifestyle in the wild?
[ethereal music]
Despite appearances,
this lonely leopard slug
holds a clue
to Mother Nature's preferred
number of genders.
- Mollusks are a vastly
underappreciated group
of animals.
All terrestrial snails,
for example,
are hermaphrodites or intersex.
In many cases,
their actual sex is determined
during lovemaking
as to whether or not A,
one set of genitals
is chewed off,
or B, they are injected
with a chemically-coated dart.
- You might feel that you have
to give a lot to your partner,
but at least
in the human kingdom
we don't have to detach
our genitals.
All that pales in comparison
to this slug's lovemaking,
one of the more extraordinary
and slimy sights in nature.
- If you thought
human sex was weird,
um, try being a leopard slug.
- Leopard slugs mature
at different times of year,
so when they're old enough
to mate, first of all,
their male sexual organs mature.
So they're essentially
male slugs.
But then later in the year,
their female organs mature,
and so then they become
essentially male and female
at the same time.
And when that happens
on a warm summer's eve,
they go looking for a mate.
When they find one,
they have to seduce them...
by biting their bottom.
[saucy music]
- It's testing the water,
is this a viable mate?
Is this other slug
ready for action as well?

- So if the bum-biting
has been accepted
as a form of courtship,
they will allow
that biting to continue,
and they will crawl up
to the nearest tree.
Narrator: And this is where
it gets a bit kinky.
- They start to writhe around,
the heads touch each other,
and they twist around in this
kind of serpentine motion,
and then, all of a sudden,
the males drop down
on this very,
very strange thread of mucus.
[owl hooting]
- They construct this really
long, dangling mucus trapeze.
It's like a high-wire for sex.
And basically the slugs will
then entangle each other
around their bodies.
And then their penises will...
come out of their heads.
- And they're like
dick unicorns basically
with their...
With their penis heads.

- Let's just remember
how weird this is.
The human equivalent
would be like having
a 15-foot translucent penis
projecting from the side
of your head.
This is really weird stuff.
And then for about 20 minutes
these two penises intertwine
and splay out
into what's been described
as a love orb.
- Then they will
inseminate each other,
and then one of them will drop
off the slime onto the ground,
the other one will go
down the tree,
and they'll go
their separate ways
to have their babies
Narrator: Though they can both
get each other pregnant,
they don't have to.
- So slugs are a good example
of a group of organisms
that have both sexes
in their bodies.
- But there's another twist
to the tale,
because even if a leopard slug
doesn't manage to find a mate
and mate in this
really strange way,
well, it's both a male
and a female at the same time,
and so it can just
reproduce on its own.
Narrator: Which isn't
as lonely as it sounds.
- Not all animals need
to have sex at all.
We see lots of the time
where there's either one gender
or one sex of animals
that can reproduce by itself,
or we get organisms
that just reproduce
by asexual reproduction,
which means
they just clone themselves.
- It's called parthenogenesis,
and it's not just weird,
little creepy-crawlies.
We're talking sharks,
we're talking birds,
we're talking amphibians,
we're talking bees.
All sorts of creatures can
just produce these clones.
Narrator: In fact,
the number of organisms
that are multiple sexes
or able to clone themselves,
outnumber all the rest
put together.
[geese honking]
[hip-hop beat]

And one group of them make up
80% of all life on the planet.
[various animal calls]
- When we talk
about queer behaviors,
we're not just talking
about animals.
We're talking about all
living things, period.
Plants, oh, my God.
Flowers, trees, shrubbery.
Nothing is as oversexed
as a shrubbery.
It would blow your mind.
And just because they're
fixed in place doesn't mean
that they don't have
incredibly active sex lives.
And while we might see plants
as objects of beauty,
the reality is
a little more... messy.
[jazz music]

- What we often don't
think about is the fact
that flowers are, first of all,
the sex organs of plants
kind of dangling
on the top of these stems.
- Here's a bouquet of vulvas.
Have a dick.
I love you that much.
- You can have male structures
in one or both.
The female and male are
in the same structure,
and they can come
in any different form.

- Plant reproduction
is very exciting
and extremely variable,
but they're basically just
having sex all the time...
Especially in spring...
[dramatic orchestral music]
Right, with your hay fever.
That's a lot of plant sex
going on.

- Your nostrils are rejecting
this extraordinary blizzard
of genetic material.
Eggs and sperm just racing
into your airways,
and your nose isn't
ready for it.

[glass shattering]
narrator: It seems
that in the natural world,
the idea of just having
two fixed sexes
is clearly out of style.
[bright music]
There are queer cuttlefish
with three,
lizards with five,
fungi with thousands,
and billions of plants,
corals, and assorted animals
which can be multiple
at the same time.
So much of what we as humans
think is true in nature
turns out to be false.
But we've got to have covered
everything by now, right?
Or have we?
[Western music]
If our journey has
shown us anything,
it's that things are never
quite how they seem.
[horse snorts]
Even here in the Rockies...
[bird screeches]
The rugged, all-American
heartland where we began,
there are surprises in store.
[crowd cheering]
[patriotic music]

[horse neighing]
[music distorts and stops]
[upbeat dance music]

- Welcome, y'all, to the rodeo.
Narrator: At the 39th annual
Rocky Mountain Gay Rodeo,
some of the best cowboys
in the country are vying
for the prize of Rodeo King...

Or Queen...
[horse whinnies]
Or even Drag Queen.
[bull bellows]
And in the nearby foothills,
another contest is afoot.
[country music]

With everything we've learned,
it's time to take another,
closer look
at these iconic animals.
[hard rock music]

- Bighorn sheep are one of
the ultimate masculine symbols.
We're talking 300 be-horned
pounds of don't argue,
throbbing and thrusting
their way through the Rockies.
They're very impressive animals.

Each fall for a few days
while the females are fertile,
the males compete to mate.
[sheep lows]
- They have a double layer
of bone through their skull,
and that means that they can
ram each other...
Uh, literally, no pun intended,
at 40 miles an hour,
skull to skull.
And you and I end up
with horrific brain damage
And they're just fine.
They don't feel a thing.
But despite how it appears,
and how they are presented
in the media,
these animals are actually
some of the queerest alive.
[flamenco music]
- I think people might
be surprised
if they look a bit closer
at bighorn sheep behavior,
because they'd find
that it's more diverse
than they might expect
from that stereotypical image.
[sheep lows]
For most of the year,
this macho male
never sees a female.

They live completely separate
in bachelor herds.
And during those times,
they can be very social.
[sheep chatters]
[Western music]

- Almost all male
bighorn sheep engage
in homosexual courtship
and in homosexual copulation.
Genital nuzzling, licking,
and even surprising behaviors
like kicking each other
in the testicles
to get each other's attention.
After such a loving courtship,
who could refuse?
[sheep bellows and snorts]
- A 2004 study showed
that 8% or even more
of bighorn sheep were only
interested in other males.
70% of male-male interactions
in bighorn sheep
involve some sort of courtship.
- These activities are not
just physically pleasurable.
They also diffuse
potential tension
where these guys would
smash each other
to smithereens
on top of these mountains.
So it's basically
a gay rugby club.
Narrator: But bighorns
have another hidden
aspect to their lives.
- So in bighorn sheep,
there's three genders.
Females live by themselves.
They only accept mounting
three days of the year.
Then there are males which are
the more typically masculine.
They engage
in this same-sex activity,
and they engage
in intercourse year-round.
Then there are
male-bodied individuals
who live with females,
who aren't as aggressive.
They crouch and urinate
like females.
And also like the females,
they only accept mounting
for about three days
of the year.
- They're,
for all intents and purposes,
female except for their
basic physiology,
which is 110% male.
So they're a very unique animal,
and as a symbol of masculinity,
astonishingly progressive.
Narrator: These remarkable
queer animals remind us
to constantly question
what we think we know,
and never to judge a book
by its cover.
[hopeful music]
It's clear that no matter
where you look on our planet,
nature is full
of queer surprises.

Our trip has taken us
from the southern oceans
to the Great Barrier Reef,
the plains of Africa
to the salt pans of the Yucatn,
and every habitat in between.

We've met gay penguins,
bisexual lions,
pansexual primates,
sex-changing clown fish...
And a rainbow's worth
of other queer creatures,
big and small,
that show the true diversity
of our world.

But there's still
one animal left
that we've hardly mentioned...
[upbeat music]
- Within the human world,
there's a massive amount
of diversity,
more diversity than we see
in any other species
on planet Earth.

- That's the key ingredient
in our evolution.
- Humans have not
invented queerness,
evolution has.
- Human sexuality is diverse.
It is expansive.
It is a spectrum.
And it is beautiful.
- There's so many
different sexualities.
There's so many different
ways of being,
and all of them are
equally human.
Narrator: But it's not
without controversy.
- Queerness in humans has
always existed.
What hasn't always existed
is acceptance and tolerance.
- I am a queer woman,
a little bit
of a gender-bender myself.
For so long people have looked
at their fellow human beings
who are queer or trans
or somewhere in that realm
as being unnatural,
as being against nature.
- It's not necessarily safe
to be out in academia.
I still don't feel comfortable
being out about my sexuality.
- In a sense I felt lonely.
I didn't see many other faces
like me in academia.
- When I came out,
one of the things I heard was,
it's not natural, or you don't
see the animals doing this.
And that's ridiculous
because you really do.
- There's nothing
on the biological side
that's a downside to being gay.
It's only on the cultural side.
And fortunately, that's
something that we can change.

And the best way to do that
is to show the world
for how it truly is.
[lion grumbling]
- So nature is not
some abstract concept.
It's you.
You are an extension of nature,
and nature is an extension
of you.
- The more that we can get
that information out there,
the more we're gonna
be able to show people
that queer is natural.
[macaw squawks]
- One of the greatest
of my life has been seeing
the tremendous changes
that have come
with a new queer generation,
so much more true
to what is out there.
[macaw squawking]
[hen clucks,
cat purrs, dog barks]
- If you look at the most
successful ecosystems,
what you see is
an abundant array
of cooperative behaviors.
When communities work together,
they thrive
And I can't think
of a more important time
in Earth's history
for us to acknowledge
that it is natural to accept
that everybody has
a part to play
and be grateful
for their contribution
regardless of how
they live their lives...
[lion roars]
And for God's sake,
how they choose to have sex.
In the known universe,
there is only a single place
where life exists,
more diverse and wonderful
than your wildest imagination.
A place we should all
be proud to call home.