When we’re young, we receive love from our families, and as we grow older, we begin to seek it from a special someone. But what happens when our special someone doesn’t exactly fit the norm? For many people, this can be a tremendous struggle.
Believe it or not, this can also be a dilemma for animals. When two male birds met, they became mates almost instantly. Everybody said they were just confused, but the truth behind their special connection was much more touching than that.
Sydney’s Sea Life Aquarium is home to hundreds of different animal species that live in or by the ocean. While most visitors expect to learn about fish, everyone gets excited to catch a glimpse of the Antarctic section to watch the penguins frolic around.
The 4 main types of Antarctic penguin species are Adelie, Emperor, Chinstrap, and Gentoo, but there are many others found in different locations. Sydney’s Sea Life features Emperor penguins, Little Penguins, and Gentoos — including one special duo.
Male penguins Sphen and Magic caught the attention of their caretakers when they became really close before breeding season. They were going for romantic swims together and canoodling.
Most importantly, Sphen brought Magic a special pebble, a sign of penguin mating. This pebble was even shaped like a heart, so it was obvious this romance was meant to be.
When Sphen and Magic started collecting many more pebbles, the Sydney Sea Life personnel began scratching their heads. Why would the two males build a nest when neither of them was going to lay eggs? They decided to conduct a little experiment…
The lovebirds were given a fake egg to test their parenting abilities. Would they keep it warm and safe until it was ready to hatch? Would they refuse to take their eyes and butts off of it, taking turns watching the egg while the other collected more pebbles and food?
It eventually became clear that Sphen and Magic were ready to become dads. Since penguin families usually only have enough resources to raise one chick successfully per breeding season, a mother’s second egg was given to the father-father team.
On October 19, 2018, the egg began to crackle and to wobble. Was it finally time for the Gentoo gentleman to become parents? Would their adopted chick come out healthy, and would it grow up feeling loved?
The little fluffball only weighed 3.2 ounces, but depending on its gender, that could be perfectly normal. It seemed perfectly happy to be born into the Sea Life family, and to have two proud, glowing dads.
This called for a celebration! All the other penguins gathered around to watch the miraculous birth of the latest addition to their waddle, their penguin group on land.
Because penguin chicks are extremely vulnerable for their first few weeks of life, they don’t get named until caretakers are sure they will survive. However, there was nothing to worry about as the feathered fathers were naturals.
Penguins look incredibly similar to one another, so whether they’re male or female only shows through their adult weight and their behavior patterns. In the meantime, the chick has been nicknamed “Sphengic,” after its two devoted papas.
“Baby Sphengic has already stolen our hearts,” Tish Hannan, the aquarium’s dedicated penguin supervisor exclaimed. “We love watching the proud parents doting and taking turns caring for their baby chick.”
While Sphengic and his dads still needed some time to adjust, Sea Life invited visitors to come check out the happy family. “We can’t wait for the world to fall in love with Baby Sphengic like they did with our amazing same-sex couple, Sphen and Magic!”
Australia has been making great strides in LGBT+ rights. On December 9, 2017, same-sex marriage was legalized, and the last jurisdiction to legalize same-sex adoption did so in March of 2018. This was good news for penguins, too…
With ice caps melting, Antarctic penguins will soon become endangered. But publicly accepted egg adoption like this can help them increase their population. Little ones like Tango and Sphengic might be just the beginning of a whole new family lifestyle.
Sphen and Magic aren’t the first same-sex couple in the animal kingdom. Dogs, monkeys, deer, ducks, and several lions have been found to show homosexual tendencies towards each other.
In fact, same-sex partnered penguins have been spotted for years! It all started in 2005 at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Two male penguins were given a female’s extra egg to care for, inspiring two gay authors to write a children’s book!
Unfortunately, not every same-sex couple is so lucky— in the animal world or the human world. Pat Benatar said that love is a battlefield, and one role model teacher knows all about the burdensome battle simply to be with the one you love.
Jocelyn Morffi is a 32-year-old woman who lives in Miami, Florida. She was a first-grade teacher and she loved what she did, the kids loved her back, and the parents adored her as a teacher. Everything was perfect — or so it seemed.
Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook
Jocelyn was well known by the parents and staff and was one of the most popular teachers at the school. Parents of her students praised her and referred to Miss Morffi as the “Mother Teresa of teachers, and for a good reason!
As a teacher of children who are so young and impressionable, Jocelyn found it difficult to talk to her students about the tragedies that occur around the world on a daily basis. She wanted her conversations with them to be filled with hope rather than fear.
St. Peter and Paul Catholic School
Together with her class, she started brainstorming ideas on how to give back to the community and instill hope in her students. They came up with the idea to volunteer at their local homeless shelter.
Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook
Jocelyn recalled, “When I came back from that first feeding, I asked the school if it’s possible for them to back me up, and I got authorization to send out a letter to the parents stating what’s going on and if they would like to contribute in any way.”
Additionally, Jocelyn used her platform on social media to start a program to encourage her students, their parents, and the community to join her in her new initiative. She used the hashtag #TeachHope to spread the word.
Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook
With her social media campaign and the support of her students, Jocelyn was ready to start her campaign and could only hope that the community followed in her footsteps.
Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook
Jocelyn was overwhelmed with support when her students and their parents showed up to volunteer at the homeless shelter with her. Parents also brought generous donations like loves of bread, meats, cheeses, and snacks to bag up and hand out.
Miss Morffi’s students were passionate about her new program. A class parent and co-worker stated, “They wake me up bright and early on Sunday saying, ‘Mom, we have to teach hope.'” She was an integral part of the school, community, and their lives.
Having their kids spend every day with the “Mother Theresa of teachers” is every parent’s dream. That’s why the parents were immediately concerned when Jocelyn stopped showing up to school — and very confused.
See, Jocelyn was scheduled to have some time off from work because she was celebrating something very special. She was about to marry the love of her life and best friend. She just assumed when it was all over, her life would return to normal.
Prior to the big day, Jocelyn set up a wedding website to show all of the important information regarding her wedding and to inform her guests of the festivities. She set up a wedding hashtag so her loved ones could follow the event online.
The couple planned a weekend-long celebration at the Key Largo Lighthouse estate. On Friday they held a welcome bash, followed by a seaside wedding ceremony on Saturday, with a goodbye barbecue on Sunday… but things didn’t go as planned in the days following.
When parents brought their children to St. Peter and Paul Catholic School following the wedding, they were shocked to see that their beloved teacher had not returned. When the parents learned why Miss Morffi was no longer there, they were outraged.
Since Jocelyn was such a known presence in the community and on social media, the school saw pictures of her wedding ceremony. According to the school, what they saw in those photos left them with no choice but to fire her.
Her Instagram displayed photos of Jocelyn and her wife joining in holy matrimony. Because same-sex marriage is not accepted in the Roman Catholic church, the school relieved Jocelyn of her duties as a teacher at the school.
NY Daily News
Jocelyn took to her social media and wrote this: “This weekend I married the love of my life and unfortunately I was terminated from my job as a result. In their eyes, I’m not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner.”
The parents who didn’t follow Miss Morffi on Instagram found out from a letter through the school, which stated that “She is no longer teaching at our school,” and it was “a difficult and necessary decision.”
The following day, dozens of angry parents showed up at the school. One parent told the news, “We feel cheated. She was the best kind of teacher that you can ask for and our kids, everybody, every parent here — our kids loved her.”
Parents threatened to pull their children from the school if she wasn’t reinstated. Unfortunately, Catholic schools, like many other schools, are not subject to the states public school laws. So, in the eyes of the Catholic school board, Miss Morffi was in violation of her contract when she married the woman she loved.
As of 2018, Jocelyn was seeking legal advice to figure out her options. Her attorney stated, “Jocelyn is humbled by all the love and support she has received from family, friends, the students’ parents, and the public. She feels that the manner of her firing was unfair, not only to her but to her students as well.”
Unforunately, it’s stories like Jocelyn’s that cause many people to still feel the need to keep their sexuality hidden — Christopher Landis was no exception. The 43-year-old has been a teacher and a choir director in Massachusetts for the past six years.
“You always walk into his classroom and he’s always there with a positive attitude and maybe a compliment. He’s just so nice,” Summer Foraste, one of Landis’ students, said.
What matters most to Mr. Landis is creating a safe environment where open dialogue is encouraged. His students can talk to him about anything, and they often take him up for it by letting him know what’s going on in their lives.
Since Mr. Landis knows so much about his pupils, he wanted to share some personal news with them too, but something left him feeling hesitant. Despite their love for him, he wasn’t sure how they would take the news.
See, on Christmas Eve of 2016, Christopher got engaged to the love of his life, and was going to be married two years later, at the end of 2018. The couple was excited but also worried about how people would react.
What nobody knew was that Christopher’s significant other was a man named Joe Michienzie. In the past whenever his students or their parents would see them out together he referred to Joe as his “friend”.
The school where Mr. Landis works, Hingham Middle School, is located near the coast of Massachusetts. While MA is a fairly liberal state, there are still groups of people who do not feel safe or accepted for who they are.
Mr. Landis wasn’t sure how his beloved students would feel about him being gay. He feared that they might not approve of his lifestyle and relationship, or worse, that they wouldn’t be comfortable around him anymore.
Despite the couple’s best efforts to keep their engagement on the hush-hush, parents found out about their upcoming nuptials. Without Mr. Landis’ knowledge, they devised a top-secret plan…
“At the end of the summer, I heard he was getting married. He’s the best teacher and he makes every school function fun. We thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to do something for his wedding?” Joy Foraste, whose daughter is one of Landis’ students, said.
Foraste and fellow parent Margit Foley started brainstorming ideas for a surprise in September of 2018. But before starting any real plans, they decided to reach out to make sure it was something Mr. Landis would like.
“We reached out to his fiancé because I wasn’t really sure how he’d feel,” Foley explained. “He was immediately on board. He said he had also been trying to figure out how to incorporate the students because they mean so much to Mr. Landis.”
A group of parents got together and made sure that all his pupils, from sixth to eighth graders, would attend the couple’s wedding with a surprise that would show their full support of their favorite teacher.
“We hoped we’d get at least 15 kids to do it,” said Foraste after emailing the parents of about 60 choir kids. “But instead we had over 50 kids. It’s such a testament to Mr. Landis as a teacher and as a figure in their lives.”
While Foley and Foraste visited the reception venue to clear their plans with the proprietors, the students worked hard on their surprise with the help of Dona Maher, a private chorus teacher who knew Mr. Landis too.
“I was absolutely delighted and honored when they had asked for my help — it was an instantaneous yes from me,” Maher told Wicked Local. “This was a genuinely thoughtful and loving gesture for their teacher.”
With Maher on board, the students showed up every Sunday for four weeks to practice their performance. This meant the kids gave up four weekend days to do something nice for their teacher.
It was the day of the wedding rehearsal, and as soon as the children appeared at the ceremony, the two grooms were overcome with emotion. The kids walked in gracefully, lined up with a smile, and began singing an all too familiar Beatles’ tune…
“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done, nothing you can sing that can’t be sung, nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game. It’s easy — all you need is love.”
When Mr. Landis realized what was happening, he instantly started to cry. “I noticed everyone was holding video cameras and I was wondering, like, ‘What’s going on?'” Landis told Inside Edition.
“Then I saw the first student come in and I was like ‘Oh my goodness,’ but I don’t think it hit me until all of these students came in, and they were smiling and all dressed up. I started crying and they started crying.”
The whole performance was filmed and posted online, where it soon went viral. “I still get choked up watching it,” a newly-wedded Joe told The New York Times.
“I always referred to him as my friend because I wasn’t sure how the kids or parents would take it,” Landis said. “When they came to sing I felt like they were basically saying: ‘It’s okay. We know who Joe is.’ So now I say: ‘Joe, my husband.'”
At the end of the video, one of the students’ mom’s comes up to Landis to explain the whole situation and inform him about how much they practiced. He was truly blown away by their dedication.
“As a middle-school teacher, I see students struggle to figure out who they are and to deal with personal issues. I was so glad they were there, feeling the love in the room and knowing everything’s going to be okay… that things do work out.”