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Dawn Butler has absolutely no regrets about starting gay giraffe row and wants you to know being gay is natural

Vic Parsons October 31, 2019

Dawn Butler MP on ITV's Peston on October 30. (ITV/Screenshot)

Labour MP Dawn Butler, who inadvertently started a gay giraffe row among senior figures in the party – and indeed, the world – has “no regrets” about making the comments.

On ITV’s Peston on October 30, the shadow women and equalities secretary said she “stands by” the point she was using gay giraffes to make, which is that you cannot “teach gayness” and that LGBT+ inclusive education is important in schools.

After a segment about the upcoming UK general election and Brexit, Robert Peston said: “I hope you’ll forgive me, Dawn, but we’ve got to talk giraffes.”

“So, you upset quite a lot of people when.. at the PinkNews…” Peston continued, alluding to the gay giraffe row that began with comments Butler made at the PinkNews Awards on October 14, before Butler interrupted, saying: “They were not upset.”

“I got a standing ovation for my speech, I’ll have you know!” Butler added.

“That I don’t doubt. But afterwards, as I’m sure you know, a number of people had a go at you for saying that the point about male giraffes is they prove homosexuality exists in nature. One or two people said the problem is, male giraffes rather brutalise boy giraffes, and they’re not a good example. Do you regret saying what you said?” Peston asked.

“No, not at all,” Butler said. “The point I was making is this: that you cannot teach people to be gay. People are who they are, and we should allow people to be their authentic selves and live their lives, authentically, as they want to be. So, that’s the point I was making and I don’t regret making that point at all.”

Peston asked if, next time, she’d look into other animals that might be a better example to use.

“There’s plenty of other examples!” she said. “There’s beetles, there’s penguins. Homosexuality exists in nature, in the animal kingdom.”

“The point is, you can’t teach people to be gay and that’s the point I was making. And I stand by that.

“And I think this government has done a disservice to the LGBTQI+ community, in the delay of the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, I think they’ve made it a hostile environment and I think they should be ashamed of themselves.”


Butler’s original comments were made at the PinkNews Awards on October 16, when she said, “giraffes are gay… you cannot teach it”.

Whether or not giraffes are actually gay was then disputed by a senior Corbyn adviser, Lachlan Stuart, who slammed her comments and said that male giraffes have gay sex for dominance and that there is “no romance”, so it’s “not gay behaviour”.

Giraffe experts were also divided by the row, with some agreeing that giraffes display homosexual behaviour and some disagreeing.

Butler pointed to gay penguins on Peston – which are well-documented as forming long-term same-sex relationships, including building nests together and raising chicks – as another example that being gay is natural and cannot be taught.

More: Dawn Butler, gay giraffe row, robert peston

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