This summer, Mariah Schug, visiting assistant professor of psychology, traveled to the Faroe Islands where she produced a gallery exhibit on animal sexual diversity. The exhibit, titled, “What is Natural? Diversity of the North,” combined Schug’s scientific research and the work of Nordic artists. It was organized by LGBT Faroe Islands and funded by the Nordic Culture Fund, and ran from July 27 through Aug. 30.
According to Schug, the LGBT movement in the Faroe Islands is relatively new. While supported by much of the public, it faces serious criticisms from religious conservatives. Politicians and public figures who are opposed to equal rights for the Faroese LGBT community frequently argue that homosexuality is unnatural, and therefore, ungodly and immoral. Because, in fact, homosexual, bisexual and transgendered behaviors are very well-documented in the animal kingdom, the exhibit sought to educate the public about this fallacy through the arts and sciences, according to Schug.
Together with a collaborator, Eiler Fagraklett, Schug compiled a list of Nordic animal species that display homosexual, bisexual, and/or transgendered behaviors. They gave the list to artists in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Denmark, who then created paintings, drawings, sculptures and multi-media pieces representing the animals.
Schug then wrote up the scientific evidence describing the animals’ LGBT behaviors. These write-ups were displayed alongside the artwork in both English and Faroese. Also displayed were quotes from Faroese public figures arguing that homosexuality is unnatural.
Schug also presented her research on Faroese attitudes toward equal rights for the Faroese LGBT community at a lecture series coordinated with the exhibit.