Death Care Is Healthcare: The importance of trans-inclusive deathcare

Trans-inclusive deathcare should be front-and-centre of the healthcare conversation, because everyone deserves to be treated, celebrated and remembered as themselves.
Death Care Is Healthcare: The importance of trans-inclusive deathcare

From death midwives, doulas and grief counsellors to funeral staff and lawyers who handle Wills and probate – these are just several examples of the people involved in the deathcare space. For the LGBTQIA+ community, there are troubling inequalities when it comes to who is able to access high-quality end-of-life and bereavement support. After all, deathcare is a part of healthcare, and proper healthcare should be accessible to everyone.

If you’re wondering what you or your loved one can do to ensure your identity is respected after death, we’ve outlined some common issues below, as well as a checklist to consider. 

Trans issues in life and in death

Death workers (who often fall under the trans umbrella themselves) are typically at the forefront of education initiatives and programs. It’s clear that further education and access to resources are needed to all within and outside of the deathcare space, in order to eliminate the numerous issues that trans people face in life and in death – issues that undeniably cause irreparable damage to trans people and their loved ones.

Some examples are explained below.

Misgendering and deadnaming

One common issue in the trans deathcare realm is ‘deadnaming’, which is the act of calling a trans person by the name they used before they transitioned, instead of by their chosen name. Misgendering trans people erases their history and their identity, and this can be incredibly traumatic and invalidating. 

No proper funeral or memorial service

Sometimes, in the case of estranged families, it can mean that funerals or memorials aren’t planned at all, which makes it difficult for friends, coworkers and peers to grieve the person they knew and loved. 

Being outed after death

On the flip side, sometimes queer people don’t want their family to know that they identify as trans and in the case of an unexpected death, they are nonconsensually outed before they are ready to tell them.

Administration challenges

It may be difficult to match up paperwork like a death or a birth certificate if the deceased person didn’t legally change their name. There are a number of reasons why a legal name change would not be completed, or even approved. (The process is also notorious for being difficult, which is why many trans people might delay this step when transitioning).

Funeral home ethos

Many funeral homes work with a view to respect a family’s wishes, so they aren’t always able to speak up and advocate for the rights of the trans person who has died. Additionally, the funeral home workers may not be aware of family rifts or the deceased person’s wishes, so they are simply following instructions that they believe to be true. This is why it’s so important to include specific instructions in a Will.

Will checklist for trans people 

In case of illness or injury and you are unable to medically advocate for yourself (or in case of death), it’s important to know that your wishes will be respected and that the people making decisions for you are the people you love and trust – who may not be your genetic family. In many cases, it’s recommended that trans people do the following:

Organise advance care planning documents, such as:

  • An advance directive - This formalises your advance care plan. The directive can contain all your needs, values and preferences for your future care and details of a substitute decision-maker.
  • A WillA legal document that outlines who you want to inherit your estate, a guardian for your children (if any) and the executor of your estate when you pass away.
  • A prepaid funeralAs part of the process you can outline your wishes for your funeral and identify a specific person to make the final arrangements in your absence.
  • Healthcare proxy (if desired) - A health care proxy, or durable power of attorney for health care, allows you to designate another person as your agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Used in combination with living wills, these are referred to as "Advanced Care Directives."

What friends and family can do 

  • When planning for end-of-life, ensure that medical professionals, hospice workers and doulas don’t make assumptions about gender and are aware of preferred names and pronouns.
  • Check that the name used in references to the deceased matches what their pre-death preferences were.
  • Show you are an ally every day by displaying your personal pronouns on your social media profiles, business cards, name tags, email signatures and personal bios.
  • Educate yourself and stay open-minded. 

Resources to help trans people and their loved ones

Legal resources for LGBTQIA+ people in Australia

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal advice. 

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