Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



No forensic anthropological standards exist for the identification of transsexual individuals from skeletal material. In fact, current standards produce inaccurate biological profiles for transsexuals. The reason being that current standard for ascription of sex from skeletal remains relies on pelvic morphology. Positive identification of unidentified individuals relies on the accuracy of the biological profile, which includes sex, provided by the forensic anthropologist. In the case of male-to-female (MTF) transsexuals, ascription of sex based on pelvic morphology will result in an inaccurate assessment of sex. This study, therefore, attempts to determine whether or not there exists evidence in the skeleton of facial feminization surgeries (FFS) that are almost solely utilized to aid in the feminine appearance of MTF transsexuals. Survey research established that a large portion of the MTF transsexual community, approximately 64% of MTF individuals surveyed, either already had bone-modifying FFS or planned to in the future. Large and small oscillating saw blades as well as dome-shaped dental burrs were used on fleshed pig skulls to recreate the marks left during two popular FFS procedures, the mandibular angle shave/taper and the forehead contour. Analysis revealed that the marks made on wet bone are distinct enough to catalyze remodeling, which, when seen on unidentified remains, can indicate having undergone FFS. Each of the surgical tools was also utilized on a dried pig skull; comparative analysis of the tool marks made on wet bone and dry bone demonstrated that there would be discernable differences between surgical marks made antemortem and postmortem. Finally, surveys distributed to forensic anthropologists revealed that laboratories across the US and outside of the US have already had to consider transgenderism in certain forensic cases and that knowledge of the tool marks created during FFS can aid in the consideration that an unidentified skeleton may have belonged to a MTF transsexual.



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Committee Chair

Manhein, Mary