Kinsey Brett Stewart
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationTennessee, Knoxville, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10350
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleStewart, Kinsey (Tennessee, Knoxville, U. of) "(Trans) Gendering the Dead: Determining and Utilizing Sex and Gender in Medicolegal Death Investigation"
Public health surveillance of marginalized populations relies on mortality data from medical examiners and coroners (ME/Cs). ME/Cs are limited in their ability to report death trends among transgender people, however, because transgender identity is not included in the routinely recorded demographic, social, and medical data assembled during a medicolegal death investigation. In this observing participant ethnographic study, ME/Cs from across the United States are interviewed and observed to determine the sex and gender criteria utilized within their respective offices, with specific focus given to the practices employed when investigating the death of a transgender person. In states with publicly available autopsy reports, reports for known transgender decedents and a control group are examined to determine whether reported perceptions, policies, and practices match those observed in the official record.
Because of their unprecedented access to deceased persons’ physical bodies, identifying documents, and medical records, ME/Cs are uniquely positioned to subvert many of the assumptions predicating the social theory of ‘reading’ gender. If gender is understood as an ongoing social production, what becomes of a person’s gender identity after death? The cooperative performance of gender is here subverted, potentially revealing heretofore hidden nuances to the biosocial relationship between sex and gender.