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End Of Life Brings Legal Complications For Transgender People

Jennifer Gable shared self-portraits with her friends to document her transition from a man to a woman.
Courtesy Emilie Jackson-Edney
Jennifer Gable shared self-portraits with her friends to document her transition from a man to a woman.

Over the weekend, the story of a transgender woman in Idaho whose family had her buried as a man lit up social media.

LGBT legal advocates say there continues to be a gap in how end-of-life issues are handled, even for people who have legally changed their gender.

A story in the Miami Herald said friends of Jennifer Gable were shocked at her open-casket funeral last month in Twin Falls. Gable was dressed in a man's suit with her hair cut short. Gable's obituary identified her as Geoffrey Charles Gable, her former name.

More than 100 comments have since appeared on a memorial site for Gable, many criticizing the family.

But the families in these situations often have the law on their side. That's according to Shannon Minter with the National Center for Lesbian Rights. He recommends trans people create legal agreements ahead of time.

“You can make a will to designate who deals with your funeral arrangements and make sure to pick someone supportive,” he said.

Washington, Oregon and Idaho have laws that allow people to make that designation in a special document.

Still, Minter said these documents can be difficult to enforce if the family chooses to disregard them.

This year California became the first state to pass a law requiring that death certificates reflect trans people's gender identity.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network

Jessica Robinson
Jessica Robinson reported for four years from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho as the network's Inland Northwest Correspondent. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covered the economic, demographic and environmental trends that have shaped places east of the Cascades. Jessica left the Northwest News Network in 2015 for a move to Norway.