Activists attempting to tear down the so-called "gender binary" are now coming for archaeology, the scientific study of human history and prehistory through the analysis of artifacts and remains. An essential practice in archaeology is to determine the sex of human remains through measurements of a skeleton’s pelvis, skull, and other sexually dimorphic traits. This is important for understanding many cultural and functional ways societies structured themselves according to gendered roles.
Activists now want to disrupt this essential classification process, arguing that since we don’t know how these skeletons may have self-identified in life, it is immoral to "assign" them genders in the present. In their imagination, individuals born hundreds of years ago may have "identified" as something other than their biological sex.
Emma Palladino, a Master’s degree student at University of Montreal, took to Twitter over the recent Fourth of July holiday to write, "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. Let me tell you why that’s bullsh*t."
In a now private Twitter"> thread, Palladino explained her strange belief that scientists are assigning human remains a "gender identity" instead of simply observing and recording their sex. "While a bioarchaeologist might identify a set of remains as 'probably female,' it is understood that the gender of an individual is never necessarily the same as their sex, and that gender is a whole spectrum we've barely begun to unpack."
While gender roles factor prominently in archaeological research, such questions cannot begin to be addressed unless one first knows the likely sex of any given individual. Only then is it possible to discover whether some males or females may have performed cross-sex roles.
But many activists share Palladino’s views about the "problematic" nature of describing the sex of human remains. For instance, the Trans Doe Task Force, a group formed by gender activists, say that they are seeking 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 reads, "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."
Original reporting by The College Fix sought Professor of Archaeology, Elizabeth Weiss, for comment."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," she said.
Weiss attributes the recent explosion in the number of people identifying as transgender to being a "social and not biological" trend and says that "retroactively de-sexing obscures this obvious fact."
As punishment for her views, Weiss was reportedly barred from her school’s human remains collection and is now suing to reclaim access. The lawsuit was filed after she opposed the repatriation of remains.
"Over time, biological anthropologists and archaeologists worked hard to determine which traits are determined by sex, regardless of time and culture," Weiss told The College Fix. "This new policy of erasing this progress is a step back for science and women."
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