Major North American anthropology groups canceled a discussion on the importance of biological sex in anthropology, claiming that the talk harmed people identifying as LGBT.
During a joint conference between the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA) scheduled for November in Toronto, a session titled “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: Why biological sex remains a necessary analytic category in Anthropology” was set to be hosted. The meeting (pdf) proposed that, while it has become “increasingly common” to substitute “sex” with “gender” in the field of anthropology, there are research domains in which biological sex is “irreplaceably relevant” to anthropological analysis.
The discussion included a panel of experts who were going to talk about “why in their work gender is not helpful and only sex will do.” The presentations aimed to discuss why “sex identification—whether an individual was male or female—using the skeleton is one of the most fundamental components in bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology.”
A Sept. 25 letter (pdf) informed about the cancelation. CASCA and AAA told panelists that the session’s ideas “were advanced in such a way as to cause harm to members represented by the Trans and LGBTQI of the anthropological community as well as the community at large.”
In a Sept. 26 open letter (pdf) to CASCA and AAA, the panelists pushed back against the decision. They argued that the panel was accepted in July after the submission was reviewed by both organizations.
“From the time of this acceptance until we received your letter dated September 25th, 2023, no one from the AAA or CASCA reached out to any of the panelists with concerns,” it said.
“Thus, it comes as a shock to all of us that the AAA and CASCA canceled the panel due to the false accusation” that the discussion would “cause harm” to LGBT people.
In their letter, the panelists asked the two organizations to share the nature of the complaints which led them to cancel the session.
“We are puzzled at the AAA / CASCA adopting as its own official stance that to support the continued use of biological sex categories (e.g., male and female; man and woman) is to imperil the safety of the LGBTQI community.”
The letter noted that the panel itself is composed of a diverse group of women, including a lesbian, and is “concerned about the erasure of women.”
For instance, an abstract from one of the panelists focuses on the issue of “counting men who identify as trans” as women in the tech industry rather than having more women in the field.
“Your suggestion that our panel would somehow compromise ‘the scientific integrity of the programme’ seems to us particularly egregious, as the decision to anathematize our panel looks very much like an anti-science response to a politicized lobbying campaign.”
The letter also raised concerns about AAA and CASCA deciding to conduct a “major review” of the processes involved in vetting sessions.
“Anthropologists around the world will quite rightly find chilling this declaration of war on dissent and on scholarly controversy. It is a profound betrayal of the AAA’s principle of ‘advancing human understanding and applying this understanding to the world’s most pressing problems,’” it said.
Sex Identification Versus Estimation
On Sept. 28, the AAA released a statement against the now-canceled discussion, accusing it of transphobia and marginalizing LGBT.
“The function of the ‘gender critical’ scholarship advocated in this session, like the function of the ‘race science’ of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is to advance a ‘scientific’ reason to question the humanity of already marginalized groups of people, in this case, those who exist outside a strict and narrow sex/gender binary,” it insisted.
The organization accused the panel of committing a “cardinal” sin by proposing that sex and gender are “simplistically binary.”
AAA claimed that forensic anthropologists only talk about the “sex estimation” of bones and not “sex identification.”
“No single biological standard” exists according to which human beings can be grouped into the male/female binary classification, it stated.
The Epoch Times has reached out to AAA for comment.
In physical anthropology, human skeletal remains are distinguished based on whether they are male or female. This differentiation is done by examining the features and dimensions of the skeleton.
For instance, male skeletons have more cranial features and robust muscle attachment sites. Female skeletons are smaller in overall size and more gracile.