When a transgender family member or friend passes away, surely their funeral will reflect their transition? Sadly, this is not always the case. Their gender identity will not necessarily be mentioned during their funeral service, and in some cases, they can be deliberately reverted back to their birth gender, with their transition completely ignored. But why is this the case? And is there anything you can do to rectify the matter?
Legal Next of Kin
When someone passes away, they will often have left a will pertaining to the distribution of their assets, which is legally binding. They might have also left clear instructions regarding their funeral. This is not legally binding. A funeral home is obligated to follow the instructions of the deceased's legal next of kin. So, for example, if someone was born male and transitioned to female, their legal next of kin are within their rights to have the remains dressed and generally presented as male. It might be that, for whatever reason, the deceased's family were not accepting of their child's gender transition. Although the death is an utter tragedy, they might refuse to bury a daughter, and instead will bury a son.
Sadly, this is their right as legal next of kin, and whether a transgender person is buried as their transitioned gender or not remains solely within the hands of their legal next of kin. It's entirely their decision, and all you can do is tactfully broach the subject with them, should it transpire that they are opting to ignore the deceased's transition. There is little use in pleading your case to the funeral director, as they are duty-bound to follow any directives issued by the next of kin, and this might involve dressing a transgender woman in male clothing and altering their hair and general appearance. It's incredibly upsetting that a loved one's gender transition is discarded after they have passed away, but legally, there is nothing you can do beyond attempting to convince the legal next of kin of the need to recognise the deceased's transition.
A Private Celebration
You can certainly attend the funeral service. Any funeral can be upsetting, but perhaps doubly so when you know that the person in the casket is being laid to rest under an incorrect gender. You can perhaps take steps to restore some sense of balance by holding a private wake for the deceased, celebrating their life and gender transition with family and friends who appreciated them for who they were, gender transition and all. This will essentially be an informal gathering, but to do so can be cathartic for anyone who found the misgendering of their loved one to be particularly distressing.
A funeral for a trans loved one will hopefully celebrate the fact they were trans, but when this is not going to be the case, you should consider making plans for your own private celebration of their beautiful trans life.
For more information, reach out to a funeral home near you.