What a morbid thought! Still, its one that maybe ought not to be left until the last moment, because the results can be pretty distressing.
Disgust over Trans funeral
This morning, a story in the Washington Blade tells how transphobic remarks made by a pastor at the funeral of a trans woman led to a mass walk-out by friends who had known her in life. The events, as related, come across as disgusting in the extreme. But maybe not quite as surprising as some would have us believe.
Let’s start with how this may have come about.
The scowls of the Pharisees
I go to church. I have a decent relationship with my local priest and congregation. I’ve done church for a long time, and have variously been amused and made cross by reactions to the behaviour of my children. In essence, my daughter, when young (aged two) was a total menace in church, running round and, on occasion, getting up on the altar.
The regulars knew me, knew her, and mostly just smiled at her antics.
And then there was christmas and easter, when a bunch of over-dressed folk who don’t do church would turn up and scowl at the ill-behaved kid and her failed parent.
Because regulars know what to expect: they form relationships, negotiate boundaries. I know what to expect from my local congregation now (which through my transition has mostly been the most unimaginable support and kindness): i know what my priest thinks and…more important, i know his limits.
Like my name. Some priests would refuse to use my current name at a funeral because it is not my baptismal name. Others – and i have had a most interesting debate on this – have worked out how it is possible to use my adopted name without breaching any major issues of doctrine.
Simple? Perhaps: but if you just turn up at a church you’ve never attended before and ask a priest you don’t know to go along with your wishes for a funeral, don’t be surprised if they get it wrong.
Its a bit like marriage. The stuff that goes on inside a church is subject to canon law: some folks get very t’d off if the church can’t just do things the way they want them done. They haven’t spotted that churches have their own rules and regs – and that your chances of getting your own way are very much lessened if you don’t attend regularly, know nothing about how ceremonies work, and just regard marriage as the equivalent of a civil ceremony with prettier architecture and costume.
If you’re trans, and you spend your life going on about how you hate religion and wouldn’t go inside a church, do not be surprised if your funeral does not work out the way you imagined it.
Living will: arrangements for death
Maybe, if you care about such stuff, you should write down how you wish to be treated after you are gone: and if you really care, run it past the appropriate clergy to check that it is doable (like: a joint sending off by the local minister and a pagan is probably never going to happen!).
Then you need to make sure you entrust your plan to someone that, well, that you can trust. Espesh if you aren’t married. Or if your married partner disapproves.
Because, when it comes to the end, my funeral will be in the hands of my “next of kin” – who is currently my sister, who tries hard, but has definite issues around my transition. I don’t think she’d ask for me to be buried under my baptismal name: but to be honest, i’m not sure. I’m not even sure she’d insist on me being correctly gendered.
Leave her organising my interment with a priest and parish i’m not familiar with – and who knows what the result might be.
So, in summary, a few thoughts. If you care about how you are going to be buried, plan it out, and share your plans with people you trust and who are legally empowered to do stuff for you.
If you don’t much care about this in life, but you or your nearest and dearest think it a good wheeze to turn up at church this one occasion – after not doing so for twenty years pervious, do not be surprised if things don’t go the way you expect.
And if you care at all about the deceased, talk through details like the eulogy in person with whoever is going to deliver it.
In this case, it is pretty clear that a sensitive ceremony was handed to a transphobe bigot. You can blame the bigot for what got said: but somewhere in the loop is a distinct lack of forethought.
After all: if i decided my own death was best handled by adherents of Opus Dei, i rather think i’d deserve anything i got…