Parents do the dumbest things. Consider the mother in Piasa, Illinois who freaked out after she saw the website of her child’s optional reading assignment and bitched about it to the local school board. Her complaint led to the suspension of Dan Delong, the high school teacher who gave the homework.

Fortunately, Delong was reinstated last week after a six-and-a-half-hour school board meeting that hundreds of students attended to show support for their teacher.

The controversial reading assignment? A June 2006 article from Seed Magazine discussing the research of Stanford biology professor Joan Roughgarden, a transgender woman who has proven that homosexual and bisexual couplings are perfectly normal among animal species.

Roughgarden’s work is nothing surprising. It’s like Kinsey for animals. While humans often display an unnatural prudishness about their genitals and their sexuality, over 450 vertebrate species simply do what comes naturally. And they do it without shame, something unique to humans.

“Giraffes have all-male orgies,” the article explains. “So do bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, gray whales, and West Indian manatees. Japanese macaques, on the other hand, are ardent lesbians; the females enthusiastically mount each other. Bonobos, one of our closest primate relatives, are similar, except that their lesbian sexual encounters occur every two hours. Male bonobos engage in “penis fencing,” which leads, surprisingly enough, to ejaculation. They also give each other genital massages.”

Roughgarden, who is author of Evolution’s Rainbow, a book about the sexual proclivities of the animal kingdom, made her groundbreaking realization that sex for animals is as much about pleasure and social order as it is about reproduction while participating in a gay pride march one year.

“A lot of biologists assume that they (queers) are somehow defective,” Roughgarden said, “that some developmental error or environmental influence has misdirected their sexual orientation. If so, gay and lesbian people are a mistake that should have been corrected a long time ago. But this hasn’t happened. That’s when I had my epiphany. When scientific theory says something’s wrong with so many people, perhaps the theory is wrong, not the people.”

It’s obvious why some parents would be uptight about Roughgarden’s work. It challenges our every assumption about the supposed purpose of our sexuality. It even questions Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection in the animal kingdom. And it certainly shatters our culture’s Disney-induced fantasy of animal couples lovingly raising little furry offspring. Goodbye Lady and the Tramp.

But as students supporting Delong pointed out, school should be about learning and critical thinking, not reinforcement of social concepts that may be way out of touch with reality.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is www.avicollimecca.com.