Misleading claim that pelvic bone ‘reveals binary gender’ shared in anti-LGBTQ posts

The misleading claim that archaeologists can only determine a person’s gender from the pelvis in the remains and that their conclusion is always male or female has been shared tens of thousands of times by social media users in different countries. But experts say it’s difficult to determine gender from pelvic bone alone, and these estimates are on a spectrum and aren’t always binary.

“You can say gender-neutral, you can have many sexual orientations. But hundreds of years from now, if the Archaeologist finds your bone, they will call you either Male or female,” Indonesian physician Dr Gia Pratama tweeted on October 11, 2022. .

The post, which includes an image showing diagrams of two pelvic bones, marked as one male and one slightly wider female, has been retweeted more than 21,000 times.

Screenshot of the misleading post taken on January 1, 2023

The Doctor also posted the same photo with the same caption on his Instagram account here, where he garnered more than 4,100 Likes.

The same image was shared more than 3,400 times after it appeared on various religious Facebook pages in different countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, India and the United States with the same claim.

Similar posts circulated among Facebook users in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.

reactions Posts included anti-LGBTQ comments. “The ‘T’ in LGBT stands for Toxic,” one Facebook user wrote, while another wrote, “The truth is: There are only two genders and there is a lot of mental illness.”

Screenshots of comments from social media users

However, the claim is misleading. Experts say that examining bones alone is not enough to determine a person’s sex.

Bone examination

“We can’t tell for sure what gender an individual is by looking at the shape of their bones,” said Caroline VanSickle, a biological anthropologist and assistant professor at AT Still University in the United States. “We can make a fairly educated guess, but even then, we sometimes get the answer wrong or end up with inaccurate results.

“We also do not have methods to identify intersex individuals, who make up about two percent of the population, and we have limited data on how modern sex-affirming hormone treatments can affect skeletal features traditionally used to predict sex,” VanSickle said. Wrote A Twitter thread in response to the misleading claim, he told AFP.

According to Rebecca Gowland, a professor of archeology at the University of Durham in England, archaeologists will usually assign a skeleton to one of five categories (male, probable male, unknown, female or probable female), and not just the male-female binary as claimed. misleading articles

“The uncertainty is based on a number of different factors… [including] It could be that some of the skeletal features used to predict sex are unclear… in this particular skeleton,” he told AFP.

Pamela L. Geller, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Miami, agrees.

“While archaeologists analyze bones in tombs, the gender estimation is misleading for several reasons. Conservation may be weak,” he told AFP. “Not all skeletal elements show sexual dimorphism, which is also not very pronounced in humans.”

Geller also said: “Humans and nonhumans display a range of intersex states … So, recognizing that there is an enormous range of human variation, really, what we are defining are ideals of masculinity and femininity. And then we see most people in these ideals, even if they don’t quite fit. try to compress it.”

Gender and gender

Experts also emphasize that gender identity and biological sex are not synonymous.

“Sex is about biology,” Geller said. “Gender is cultural; it is learned, shared, contextual, can change throughout a person’s life, and depends on the identities and roles we assume or impose on us.”

“Many cultures, past and present, have nonbinary gender systems,” Gowland says. Said. “There are many examples of skeletons buried with the material culture that defines males (e.g. Birka Tomb) and biologically sexed as female, and vice versa.”

“The best we can do is offer an estimate of what the gender might look like based on how the skeleton in question compares to others, but that tells us nothing about gender identity over a person’s lifetime,” VanSickle said. Said.

Gowland directed AFP to this statement from the British Society for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO), published October 17, 2022.

“Osteoarchaeologists and forensic anthropologists have to consider both an individual’s biological sex and gender identity,” BABAO said in a statement. Said.

“These professionals understand that biological sex exists on a spectrum where the skeletons they display and sexual variation are only part of a larger whole.

“They also understand that skeletal gender assessment is not 100% accurate and this analysis may not match an individual’s biological sex or gender identity.”

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