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Senior Labour figures reportedly embroiled in row over whether giraffes are gay

Vic Parsons October 28, 2019

Two giraffes in a national park in Kenya. (Harald Lange/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

A “gay giraffe row” has reportedly split senior Labour figures, after Dawn Butler MP defended LGBT+ inclusive education in schools by using the example of gay giraffes.

Butler, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary, said that people think children can be “taught to be gay” but that “giraffes are gay… you cannot teach it”.

“If you can teach gayness, who speaks giraffe?” she said at the PinkNews Awards on October 16.

Lachlan Stuart, a senior adviser on domestic policy to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said that this was a “homophobic claim” and that male giraffes have sex with each other to assert dominance, which is “not gay behaviour”.

A Natural History Museum researcher disputed this, telling PinkNews: “Like humans, animals use sex for multiple purposes, which can include dominance.”

Butler made the comments while speaking out about LGBT+ rights. She was apparently referencing the protests against LGBT+ inclusive education outside some UK schools this year, and alluded to the fact that some parents believe their children can be “taught to be gay” through picture books such as And Tango Makes Three, which is about a gay penguin couple raising a chick.

“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?” Butler said.

“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,” she said.

‘Gay giraffe’ claim is ‘homophobic’, says Corbyn adviser.

Corbyn’s senior adviser on domestic policy took to Twitter to contest what he called Butler’s “ludicrous, offensive, homophobic claim”.

“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**king offensive? It’s akin to describing Deliverance [the 1972 American thriller film] as a ‘gay romance’ because the effete city boys are put in their place by the locals by getting beaten and then raped,” Lachlan Stuart tweeted, according to the Daily Mail – Stuart’s tweets are private.

Stuart declared that giraffes are his “favourite animal”. He then referred to scientific research suggesting that male giraffes have sex to assert authority over each other, which, Stuart said, means it is “not gay behaviour”.

“There’s no romance. No courtship. No affection. No pair bonding,” he said.

Dr Natalie Cooper, a researcher at the Natural History Museum, told PinkNews that giraffes – whether in homosexual or heterosexual situations – “do not form pair bonds”.

Cooper said: “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.”

A source close to Dawn Butler said the point she was making is that you can’t teach people to be gay, but she appreciates the clarification offered by Stuart.

Dawn Butler is a trans ally.

Dawn Butler has been an outspoken ally to the LGBT+ community, especially on the issue of trans rights.

On October 16, after new statistics revealed that there was a 37 per cent surge in transphobic hate crimes between April 2018 and March 2019, she wrote a letter to Tory equalities minister Liz Truss slamming the Conservatives’ failure to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

“It’s frustrating that the government have missed another opportunity to act and have once again failed the LGBT+ community,” Butler wrote.

She continued: “I am concerned that the government is not taking transgender issues seriously; today’s figures are alarming and provide further evidence on the need to act now – the government should stop dragging its feet and just reform the act.”

Corbyn adviser who says ‘giraffes aren’t gay’ linked to anti-trans views.

In February 2019, it was reported that Stuart had rowed with Corbyn over trans issues.

Stuart had tweeted that trans women remain “biologically male” and cannot identify as women until they are “subject to the same structural oppressions (sexisms) as are all women”.

Even then, he clarified, a trans woman would be a woman only in a “limited socio-cultural sense”.

Although his Twitter is private, Stuart’s public Facebook page shows he’s shared links to fundraising pages for anti-trans groups, an infamous anti-trans-rights Guardian editorial and videos of lectures from a “gender-critical feminist” group.

The fundraising page he shared was for the ‘LGB Alliance’, a new organisation that is being slammed online by the people it claims to represent.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people have blasted the ‘LGB Alliance’ for being “transphobic“, “disgusting” and “vile”. Many also pointed out that many members of the new group are straight, as are a lot of the people backing it online. Several lesbians and bisexual women told the new ‘LGB Alliance’ that “you do not speak for me”.

These anti-trans view contradict Labour’s stance, which is that self-identifying trans women are women – as evidenced by their inclusion on all-women shortlists – and that the GRA needs urgent reform.

Corbyn opened the PinkNews Awards ceremony by stating his pronouns in a show of solidarity with the trans community.

It was later the same evening that Butler made her “gay giraffe” comments.

Queer animals, including giraffes, penguins and sea turtles, are more common than people imagine.

More: Dawn Butler, Jeremy Corbyn, lgb alliance, liz truss, women and equalities secretary

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