Zookeepers at Sea Life London may be helping a same-sex penguin couple raise the world's first "genderless" penguin chick, but they aren't exactly clear on what it will mean to the chick, who will eventually exhibit gender-specific qualities, according to an interview with aquarium official Charlotte Barcas.
The Daily Wire and others reported Wednesday that Sea Life London has announced plans to raise an orphaned penguin chick, who was eventually adopted by a same-sex penguin couple, as a "genderless" animal, and are refusing to announce whether the chick, who is in possession of a set of sex organs, is male or female.
The Gentoo penguin chick, the aquarium said in a statement released earlier this week, "will be the first of its kind in the history of the famous London aquarium not to be characterized as male or female."
Social justice warriors hailed the development as a great leap forward in acceptance for "genderless" individuals and the notion that gender is somehow a "social construct" rather than dependent on the set of sex organs humans (and, apparently, other creatures) are assigned at conception.
For zookeepers at Sea Life London, the development is a chance to re-promote the pairing up of two male Gentoo penguins, Rocky and Marama, who bonded as a couple some time ago but took charge of an abandoned Gentoo penguin egg earlier in 2019. The chick hatched in early September and became the latest addition to the aquarium's penguin breeding group.
“What makes us really proud at the aquarium is the success of SEA LIFE London's Gentoo breeding program and the amazing job of same-sex penguins Rocky and Marama who took the chick under their wing and raised it as their own," Sea Life London announced.
But while that might be an achievement for the chick's human handlers, it's not exactly clear what being raised "genderless" means for the chick. According to reports, for now, it means that the chick will not be sexed or assigned a specific gender until adulthood, it won't be given a gender-specific name (as, apparently, most penguins are), and it will be tagged with a purple band, rather than a blue or pink band (the aquarium did not specify whether other penguins are tagged according to gender).
Initially, the aquarium also said that they believe the chick will grow into a gender and eventually exhibit gender-specific characteristics, particularly when the chick comes of age to mate. The aquarium seemed to indicate that this behavior — operating as non-gendered until adulthood and then "selecting" a gender of choice — is entirely normal for Gentoo penguins.
The zookeepers say they "decided it was more natural for the chick to grow and develop into a mature adult as genderless which is normal in the wild until they mature."
But that's not exactly true. The penguin chick has a gender, and more than likely, that gender will remain immutable as the chick grows into adulthood. It's either male or female. And that makes a big difference in the penguin's world. So, there's no way that the chick is truly "genderless" in the way, say, a woke college student exploring his/her/its own sexuality through pointless but expensive courses in gender theory might be. Penguins also take on very specific gender roles when it comes to laying eggs, and raising and nurturing their young.
When confronted with that reality, zookeeper Charlotte Barcas was at a loss as to explain exactly how the penguin, deemed genderless by humans, would even know it wasn't supposed to operate as either a girl or boy penguin.
Asked why they were raising the chick gender neutral, Barcas replied, “What we wanted to do with this chick was give guests an opportunity to meet that individual and learn about its personality without assigning it any sort of preconceived sort of gender roles."
Sure, sure. And how does she plan to make sure the penguin knows it's not supposed to conform to constricting, oppressive, outdated penguin gender roles? Well, she has no idea.
“It’s a really sort of difficult subject to navigate specifically,” Barcas said.