Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Spring 2022


Holbeck, A. (2022). Dismantling Binary Assumptions in Sex Estimation: Uplifting Trans and Gender Diverse Identities in Forensic Anthropology. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Audrey Holbeck 2022.


Forensic anthropology is a study within the field of physical anthropology that seeks to apply osteological expertise to legal and criminal situations. One of a forensic anthropologists’ most important jobs is to build a biological profile, consisting of age, biological sex, stature, and ancestry, in correspondence to an unidentified decedent. As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, instances of violence against trans and gender non-conforming individuals are unfortunately prominent, however, there has also been more awareness shed on trans activism. Trans individuals are at a higher risk of being victims of violent crime, and thus, forensic anthropologists have a duty to be both familiar with these trends, as well as adjust our behaviors to be better allies. Forensic anthropologists have no way of discerning gender from the bones of an individual. However, they can attempt to estimate sex through metric and morphological analyzations of the pelvis and cranium and apply those to a spectrum ranging from female to male. It is vital that we value the cross-impact that culture and biology have on one another. Through exploration of methods used with the pelvis and crania, as well as application of queer theories and practices, I establish an understanding of how sex is conceptualized by forensic anthropologists. By applying gender studies and feminist understandings of the sex and gender spectrums to the methods used for sex estimation, I analyze the issues within sex estimation and the possible directions for future integration of gender diversity in forensic anthropology.