After Jennifer Gable, a transgender woman living in Meridian, Idaho, died suddenly October 9, the grief her friends felt was exacerbated at her funeral, where Gable was presented "as a man" in her open casket, reports the Miami Herald.
A customer service coordinator with Wells Fargo, Gable died at work of what appears to be an aneurysm, according to those close to her. The 32-year-old woman was otherwise healthy, and her untimely passing has been mourned by friends and family alike as a tragedy.
Upon Gable's death, the Herald reports, her obituary explicitly referred to her as a man and by her male birth name, despite the fact that she publicly identified as a woman, and legally changed her name long before her death. The obituary was apparently paid for and possibly written by Gable's father.
"[There was] no mention of the woman she knew she was and had lived as for several years," Gable's friend and Human Rights Campaign board member Meghan Stabler lamented to the Herald. "Just erosion of her identity and an old photograph of how the father perceived her to be. She had done what she needed to do legally to be seen as her authentic self. Her father erased her identity either through ignorance or arrogance, but who knows what the parent was going through?"
Further, some loved ones were shocked to see Gable dressed in a men's suit and with a short haircut in her open casket.
Another of Gable's friends, Stacy Dee Hudson, wrote on Facebook, "A great and dear friend's mom went to the funeral today. It was not closed casket. They cut her hair, suit on. How can they bury her as [male name] when she legally changed her name. So very sad. Jen you will be missed and people who know you know that you are at peace."
A spokesperson for Magic Valley Funeral Home and Crematory in Twin Falls, Idaho, said Gable was listed as "male" on her death certificate, and the funeral home followed its standard male funeral rites, including placing the deceased in a suit.
Such "a tormented situation," as the funeral home spokesperson told the Herald, could possibly have been avoided if Gable had written her wishes in a will, noted HRC's Stabler. Nevertheless, writing one's last will and testament is an unccommon action for most adults in their 30s.
A good deal of trans rights activism revolves around being legally recognized on identity documents, such as driver's licenses, passports, and birth certificates, that people use in their daily lives. But the important issues surrounding trans people's dignity after death has received more attention recently, and Gable's story illustrates why.
In a case that could set a standard for states across the U.S., California governor Jerry Brown recently the Respect After Death Act into law in September. The law gives guidance to Californian authorities, including corners and funeral directors, on how to identify a deceased person's gender on their death certificate if legal documentation and biology appear to give conflicting information.