When human remains are excavated, archaeologists begin the work of determining a number of traits about the individual, including age, race and gender.
Now activists are pressuring scientists to reconsider “assigning gender to ancient human remains” based on objective observations based on the size and shape of the bones.
“You might know the argument that the archaeologists who find your bones one day will assign you the same gender as you had at birth, so regardless of whether you transition, you can’t escape your assigned sex,” tweeted Canadian Master’s degree candidate Emma Palladino last week.
“Labelling remains ‘male’ or ‘female’ is rarely the end goal of any excavation, anyway,” wrote Palladino. “The ‘bioarchaeology of the individual’ is what we aim for, factoring in absolutely everything we discover about a person into a nuanced and open-ended biography of their life.”
Gender activists have formed a group called the Trans Doe Task Force to “explore ways in which current standards in forensic human identification do a disservice to people who do not clearly fit the gender binary.”
“We propose a gender-expansive approach to human identification by combing missing and unidentified databases looking for contextual clues such as decedents wearing clothing culturally coded to a gender other than their assigned sex,” the group’s mission statement reads.
“We maintain our own database of missing and unidentified people who we have determined may be Transgender or gender-variant, as most current database systems do not permit comparison of missing to unidentified across different binary sex categories,” the group writes.