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Date of Award

Winter 2023

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Monson, Tesla A.

Second Advisor

Rollins, Alyson

Third Advisor

Bruna, Sean


The purpose of this study is to investigate the implications of excluding the skeletal morphology of sexual minorities such as intersex and trans individuals in forensic and medical context. This study took place over a span of 16 months from 2021-2023. Anthropologists' reliance on binaries to categorize humans and as a result, the skeletal morphology of sexual minorities is not considered in forensic and medical contexts. Forensic anthropologists rely on sex estimation methodology to identify skeletal remains. Sex estimation methodology as developed with skeletal data from cisgender males and females without considering morphology of sexual minorities such as intersex individuals. In other words the methodology that is relied upon by forensic anthropologists to diagnose sex will not work on all populations. Sex estimation methodology was developed with skeletal data of known males, the categorical systems that anthropologists rely on today the DEI efforts of universities in response to an overrepresentation of white academics in the field, sexism, homophobia, and white supremacy can still be observed in anthropology today. Researchers are aware that sexual variation exists in humans, but little has been done to integrate the sexual morphology of sexual minorities into forensic developments, such as biological profiles, which aid in forensic anthropologists in the identification of badly decomposed remains. Anthropologists are currently developing sex estimation. Anthropologists have begun to address the lack of representation of sexual minorities in skeletal collections by developing population specific sex estimation methodology, and investigating cultural norms that could contribute to skeletal variation such as castration. Individuals housed in the Osteology lab in the Anthropology Department of Western Washington University were measured. The raw data was run through statistical analysis software R to observe statistical differences. A keyword search and meta-analysis was conducted. They keywords pertained to forensic methodology and gender. The only measurement that was statistically different between male and female individuals was the obturator foramen. The obturator foramen is a skeletal feature not traditionally used in sex estimation. The obturator foramen has been used in conjunctions with other skeletal material, such as irregular bones and teeth, which are also not traditionally used in sex estimation. When used in conjunction with each other, the obturator foramen and irregular bones have yielded a high success rate in sex estimation. This work advances the field of forensic anthropology by spotlighting the impact of relying on antiquated categorical systems that were created by transphobic, white supremacists as well as making recommendations regarding DEI best practices and queering anthropology.




Trans, Forensic Anthropology, Methodology, Intersex, Inclusion


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Anthropometry; Sexual minorities; Forensic anthropology; Intersexuality; Transsexualism; Forensic osteology




masters theses




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