Clownfish, we learn from Joan Roughgarden, are one of many species of fish that can, and often do, change sex. Most biologists observe “nature” through a narrow and biased lens of socio-normativity and they, therefore, misinterpret all kinds of biodiversity. Transsexual fish, hermaphroditic hyenas, non-monogamous birds, homosexual lizards all play a role in the survival and evolution of the species, but mostly their function has been misunderstood and folded into rigid and unimaginative familial schemes of reproductive zeal and the survival of the fittest. Roughgarden explains that human observers misread competition into often cooperative activities, they misunderstand the relations between strength and dominance, and they overestimate the primacy of reproductive dynamics.

In the case of the clownfish the mating couple does tend to be monogamous, so much so that if the female partner should perish (as she does in Finding Nemo), the male fish will transsex and become female. She will then mate with one of her offspring to recreate a kinship circuit. Roughgarden explains clownfish behavior, along with all kinds of other such morphing and shifting, less as evidence of the dominance of the reproductive circuit and more as an adaptive process of affiliation that creates stable community rather than familial structures.

Roughgarden’s remarkable readings of biodiversity and “social,” as opposed to “sexual,” selection ask us to reconsider the very process of evolution as well as the nature and function of diversity.

Artikel von Judith Jack Halberstam: Finding Nemo and Transgender Creatures