The New South Wales Teachers Federation is collaborating with an aquarium in Sydney to develop LGBTQ lesson plans based on two gay Gentoo penguins. Gentoo Penguins have become gay icons of sorts, with a London aquarium giving a “gender neutral” chick to a pair of lesbian birds several years ago.
In an announcement on its Facebook page earlier this month, the teachers’ organization said that it had come up with six lesson plans based on the penguins’ homosexual relationship, which students could complete either in class or at the Sea Life Sydney aquarium.
The crash course in avian sexuality is aimed at K-2 students, or those younger than eight years old, according to an image of a powerpoint slide shared by the organization.
According to Sea Life Sydney, Sphen and Magic “began developing a strong bond in 2018 and became inseparable before breeding season.” Aquarium staff gave the lovebirds a fake egg to let them practice incubating, before entrusting them with a spare egg from a pair of heterosexual penguins that had two.
Later that year, the pair successfully hatched a chick that Sea Life Sydney named Sphengic. The aquarium has teamed up with the New South Wales Teachers Federation before, using Sphen and Magic’s gay family to “incorporate more LGBTQI+ content and diverse families into NSW’s curriculum.”
Same-sex relationships have been observed among Gentoo penguins in zoos and aquariums in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the UK, and the US. Zookeepers have often capitalized on the apparent phenomenon, using the animals to promote ‘Pride’ events and teach LGBTQ acceptance to young visitors.
Rather than having an inbuilt predilection for the same sex, scientists have argued that Gentoo penguins are driven together by limited heterosexual mating options, and stay together because – unlike most animals – male and female Gentoo penguins perform the same parental duties.
Some aquariums have gone a step further than giving gay penguins chicks to raise. In 2019, Sea Life London announced the birth of a “genderless” Gentoo chick, which would be raised by a pair of lesbian adults. The chick would be “the world’s first penguin to not have its gender assigned,” the aquarium boasted, adding that “it is completely natural for penguins to develop genderless identities.”
“Of course a penguin doesn’t have gender identity,” Times columnist Janice Turner wrote at the time. “It’s a bloody penguin! It has a biological sex.”