Donna the chimp.
Photo by Victoria Horner.
Donna is a biologically female chimpanzee who exhibits many traits associated with her male counterparts; she likes to wrestle, walks with a “swagger,” and can erect her body hair. In Different: Gender Through the Eyes of a Primatologist, Frans de Waal describes Donna as “a largely asexual gender nonconforming individual.” But why should we care? As S.C. Cornell writes in her thoughtful critique of zoological essentialism (pp. 36–39), “Surely, the right to live free from gender prescriptions does not depend on the existence of Donna the butch chimpanzee but instead on a basic human right to seek happiness where it does not imperil the pursuit of happiness in others. […] We, too, are animals; our behavior, too, is natural.”