Scientists urged to de-gender human remains

LGBT activists and academics argue researchers can’t know how ancient individuals identified themselves

A number of LGBT activists and academics are pushing to bar anthropologists from identifying human remains as ‘male’ or ‘female,’ arguing that it is impossible to know how ancient individuals identified themselves, The College Fix reported on Monday.

Gender activists have long been pushing to inject modern sensitivities into the academic field, the article said, adding that a tweet from Canadian Master’s degree candidate Emma Palladino, posted earlier this month, has seemingly reignited the debate.

Palladino, who is seeking an advanced degree in archaeology, argued that transgender individuals “can’t escape” the sex they were born with because archeologists who find their bone one day will assign them the same gender they had at birth. Palladino called the practice of assigning gender to an ancient human “bull***t.”

Her initial tweet garnered over 10,000 retweets and nearly 60,000 likes. She continued the thread by stating that “gender + queer archeologists and scholars have been working for decades to unpack assumptions that archeologists make bout gender and identity, both today and in the past.”

Noting that labeling any remains as ‘male’ or ‘female’ is rarely the end goal of any excavation, she stated that “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,” she argued.

She concluded by reassuring the LGBT community that even if “some sh**ty archaeologists in the future misgenders” them, that will never change who they were in life.

Other activists have also been pushing to change the way anthropologists treat discovered bodies, The College Fix, an American conservative news website, reported. It noted that a group called the Trans Doe Task Force seeks to “explore ways in which current standards in forensic human identification do a disservice to people who do not clearly fit the gender binary.”

The group’s mission statement proposes “a gender-expansive approach to human identification” by examining found bodies based on “contextual clues” such as clothing “culturally coded to a gender other than their assigned sex.”

University of Kansas Associate Professor Jennifer Raff has also argued that there are “no neat divisions between physically or genetically male or female individuals,” according to the website. Raff suggests that identifying ancient remains only as either male or female is a “duality” concept imposed by Christian colonizers.

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Meanwhile, some archeologists are trying to push back against the attempts to inject modern sensitivities into the field. Speaking to The College Fix, San Jose State archaeology Professor Elizabeth Weiss insisted that eliminating gender classifications amounted to “ideologically-motivated fudging” and that it was a step back for science.

Weiss made the point that applying biological sex to remains often helps dispel myths detrimental to women. She provided the example of some early anthropologists mistakenly identifying “robust female skeletons as male skeletons,” thus reinforcing “false stereotypes that females were not as hard-working as males.”

“Over time, biological anthropologists and archaeologists worked hard to determine which traits are determined by sex, regardless of time and culture. This new policy of erasing this progress is a step back for science and women,” she was cited as saying. 

She added that “Sexing skeletal remains is a critical skill in forensics and any diminishing of this skill will negatively impact criminal investigations, denying the victims and their families justice.”

“This is just another attempt to insert a current woke ideology where it doesn’t belong,” Weiss concluded.

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