If i should die…

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.

Four-wheels christianity

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…



10 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Natacha said,

    Or you could go to the Metropolitain Community Church, which is a thoroughly LGBT-inclusive religious organisation. I also seem to remember buddhists in temples in Japan had no problem with trans issues, people or indeed their sexuality.

    it’s annoying to have to think about what to do in the case of one’s death, I’ve got enough to do squeezing everything into the short time I have on this planet as it is, without having to worry about what happens afterwards…

  2. 2

    Gavi said,

    While there are lots of religious environments that respect people with self-designated gender, Jane makes an excellent point that this respect cannot be assumed without careful investigation given the highly cisgenderist communities in which many of us live. I would also add that there are many places that call themselves ‘LGBT-friendly’ or ‘LGBT-inclusive’ that are wonderful for people who identify lesbian, bi, and gay, but only when those people do not have a self-designated gender. People can no more assume respect in ‘LGB’ environments that tack on the often-tokenistic ‘T’ than in heteronormative spaces. Thanks, Jane, for addressing a subject about which I have long felt concerned.

  3. 3

    kathz said,

    I’ve recently been to a couple of funerals conducted by Humanist celebrants. It occurs to me that this might be something other readers want to investigate/consider. I don’t know how all celebrants relate to all circumstances but I was impressed by the way those I saw had evidently spent some time with family and friends and did their best to meet the needs of a diverse congregation – including time which could be used for silent remembering or prayer according to individual needs. I know this wouldn’t me appropriate for you, Jane, but people who don’t have a religious belief or attend church – or who are simply agnostic – might like to know that there are options beyond the duty/rota minister who is usually offered.

    I just thought I should mention this – the British Humanist Association trains and accredits celebrants.

  4. 4

    spirifer said,

    Your executors are the only people who have the legal authority to do what you want done in the event of your death.

    Make sure that your executors know what your wishes are, and make a will!!

    • 5

      janefae said,

      hehe… “executors”

      such an unfortunate term!

      Though i trust you’re not touting for business. 🙂

      In all seriousness, though, one reason for posting this is that it follows another recent episode in which an individual who followed what could best be described as an alternative sexuality in life appears to have had his life choices overturned/hijacked in death by relatives who disagreed with the choices he’d made.

      That, as much as anything, is a major issue here.

      As andrea comments…i don’t think my sister would do anything absolutely awful if she organised my funeral – apart, maybe, from the choice of music. But there are a lot of stories of trans people who find that however far they’ve come in terms of transitioning in life, that is totally disrespected in death by their supposed nearest and dearest.


      • 6

        spirifer said,

        So appoint executors who *will* follow your wishes!

        I had a client whose sister had made it totally clear that she wanted to be buried. He was her executor, but he arranged for her to be cremated.

        If you don’t trust your relatives, appoint other people as executors!

  5. 7

    andrea said,

    thanks for the vote of non-confidence…. in the small chance that your sister is so anti (which I doubt) as to bury you in your old name AND all communication had broken down between us on that point I would still turn up at the funeral and stand next to the priest interjecting the correct name and pronoun at all the neccessary points. (until carted off)…. unless thats too much of a kerfuffle for your funeral in which case you can solve all this by getting wed 😛

    I think in reality the worst that would happen is your Ozimek would re-appear on the end of Fae.

  6. 8

    katrina2 said,

    Quiet frankly I hold no interest for sentiment for my self. At death they can take my body to the incinarator. (fuel for power) The Lord shall remember those whom he wishes, if not, well, there will be no one around, to shed a tear,

  7. 9

    Sabine said,

    I shouldn’t worry – with any luck you won’t be around to hear the service anyway.

    As my dear departed grandfather said: ‘I’ll rely on stinking to get a funeral’

  8. 10

    Carka said,

    Less of a problem for those of us that are not religious, I suppose.

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