An Idaho transgender woman who died suddenly of a brain aneurysm was laid to rest by her estranged family in a way friends are calling the “ultimate insult”: as a man.
“It’s shameful what your parents and family did to you after you died. You deserved way better,” writes a friend on Jennifer Gable’s memorial Facebook page, echoing the thoughts of many. Notes another, “I was sad to see that you left us and was sickened by how you were treated after death. We will always remember you for who you REALLY were.”
Jennifer, who died on Oct. 9 in Boise at age 32, is remembered in a Twin Falls funeral home obituary as Geoffrey Gable, with no mention of transitioning in her twenties, and with a clearly male photo, unlike her profile photo on Facebook. “He loved animals and his constant companion during the last decade of his life was his beloved little black Miniature Schnauzer, Mindy…” reads the obituary, which notes he and his brother were had been raised by their paternal grandparents, and that Gable had been married and divorced.
Neither her brother nor grandparents responded to calls from Yahoo Parenting seeking comment about Jennifer’s funeral, for which she reportedly had her hair cut short and had been dressed in a man’s suit and tie. However, brother Steven Gable remembered his sibling on his own Facebook page. “It was such a sad and sudden passing,” he wrote. “Even though I didn’t agree with things my brother did, and we didn’t always get along, I still loved him. He stuck up for me when I got bullied on the playground. He told me he was proud of me. I know he loved me. I will miss him forever!!!”
Such mixed emotions are not uncommon when an estranged transgender family member dies, says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “When family members die, people usually, and, one would hope, feel a loss,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “I’m not going to begrudge people their feelings of loss at all. I don’t know this family and I don’t want to judge how they were feeling. But it’s clear that respecting [Jennifer’s] gender identity wasn’t top on their list of priorities.” And the slight is not a minor one, Keisling explains.
“You have this strong person who decided to live their truth — because as trans people, we really see who we are and go about being that person, knowing it can cost us everything,” she says. “Maybe you have a family that doesn’t want to respect that, and chooses not to respect that. And then they get to decide who you are after [you die], and to disrespect you one final time? That does not sit well with trans people. It’s just an indignity.”
One state, California, passed a law in September that seeks to avoid this type of situation. Called the Respect After Death Act, it requires the official responsible for completing a transgender person’s death certificate to ensure it represents that person’s gender expression — as documented in either in government-issued documents, or as evidenced by any medical procedures.
A friend of Jennifer’s is now aiming to right what she sees as the wrong done at her funeral with a crowdsourcing effort. The Jennifer Gable Stop Hate Fund seeks to raise enough money for either a headstone that says “Jennifer,” to be placed in a cemetery where her friends could visit, or a memorial bench at the Human Rights Park in Boise, “so no one ever forgets,” the site notes. “Jen chose her true self. That takes an amount of strength that most of us can never comprehend,” it explains. “When she did that, she lost her blood family, but she gained a whole new one. A family that cares.”