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Tango For Equal Rights

By, Jenny Nigro; social media intern for M.O.M.

M.O.M. social media intern Jenny Nigro

M.O.M. social media intern Jenny Nigro

I went to the library recently and took out an adorable book for the boy I nanny for. I’d read the book, And Tango Makes Three, before, but sharing it with him made it all the more special for me. The story is based on true events that took place several years ago at the Central Park Zoo. There, in the beloved penguin house, two male penguins began a years-long courtship and exhibited the nesting behaviors that are typical of expecting chinstrap penguin parents. Eventually, one of the zookeepers decided to give the couple their own egg to nurture and the penguins became the proud fathers to a fuzzy chick. They named her Tango because, as the book notes, “it takes two to make a Tango.” (Like I said, absolutely adorable).

No longer at the Central Park Zoo to visit, Tango’s daddies drifted apart over time and Tango was even said to have entered in a courtship with another female penguin. Their story (and subsequent book and play), though, has had a more lasting legacy – and has been the subject of much debate in family discourse. Some groups sought to ban the book immediately and protest the pairing of the penguins with their cherished little Tango egg. Others rallied around this model of parenting to assert that gay mating/parenting rituals do not defy the natural order.

The story of Tango’s dads shows us that different forms of courtship and parenting occur across nature, a phenomena which is also visible at the popular NYC Museum of Sex. MoSex, as it is shortened to, has devoted an entire exhibition to exploring the multi-faceted nature of animal sex and the “evolutionary benefits of non-reproductive sex for both individuals and social groups within the animal kingdom.” A recent visit to the museum led to my discovery of Tango’s story on display there. It turns out that our concepts of animal behavior, parenting instinct, and what it looks like to make a family have been overturned by one little chick.

With the nationwide legalization of gay marriage debate on-deck for the US Supreme Court, we will no doubt see more LGBTQ couples embark on their path to marriage and familyhood. So what can we expect for the family as we know it? Well, as research and public interest stories would indicate, most likely good things. A few years ago, a study that followed several children of lesbian couples over the span of two decades asserted that children of lesbians are psychologically better adjusted than their peers. And who can forget Zach Wahls’ touching appeal to the Iowa legislature to protect civil unions? Though little had been studied on children raised by two male parents, my sister recently did a scholarship review on studies that have looked at these models of parenting and they had similar findings: families with two daddies tend to have happy, well-adjusted kids.

So I look forward to seeing the next happy, well-adjusted generation of babies, both human and penguin, in a (hopefully) post-legalized marriage equality world. And maybe in this moment in history, it will take nine to make a tango…or at least a majority.

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