Supporting Transgender Awareness Week

Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, during 1855. The company remains independent and family-run, and now has a further three offices across the county in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint. Much societal changed has occurred since the business first began, and Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, shares some of the ways […]

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Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors staff member Becky

Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, during 1855. The company remains independent and family-run, and now has a further three offices across the county in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint. Much societal changed has occurred since the business first began, and Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, shares some of the ways in which colleagues are working to foster greater inclusivity…

Following on from our post earlier in the year recognising Pride Month, it felt right to share some thoughts during Transgender Awareness Week, which takes place from 13th to 19th November 2023. On 20th November, the community then marks Transgender Day of Remembrance – an annual observance of those transgender people who have lost their lives in acts of anti-transgender violence during the last year.

Transgender Awareness Week itself is an opportunity for the transgender community and allies to bring attention to the community by educating the public to who transgender people they are, and what issues they face. There is a strong perception for many that the only important issues for transgender – and cisgender (those who identify as the gender they were assigned as birth) – are use of pronouns and bathrooms whereas, in reality, there is far more detail to consider.

Many transgender people experience difficulties in accessing gender affirming healthcare. They can also face issues to do with legal recognition of their identity, and therefore all kinds of associated problems such as access to identification – which leads to problems with travel, proof of identity for any necessary reason such as securing a job – and discrimination (or harassment and violence) against their appearance. More broadly, a common experience among the transgender community is difficulties with their family members, friends, colleagues, and strangers accepting them for who they are. And this can be something that we, as funeral directors, come across.

When arranging a funeral in England and Wales, the gender of the person who has died is not recorded – because for the logistics of the arrangements themselves, it is irrelevant. Gender is often an important part in remembering and celebrating the person, which is something that we always advocate for, but when it comes to the technicalities of burial or cremation and secular funerals, gender is not important. The provision of coffins, preparation for burial or cremation, and level of care given by funeral directors, is the same no matter a person’s gender.

However, arranging funerals can be a source of conflict among loved ones, and this is something that a funeral director often has to navigate. There are, of course, many reasons for potential disputes following a death. Human relationships can be complicated, and when several people are typically involved in making arrangements, differences in opinion often occur. For those in the transgender community, this can be heightened by the person’s family not accepting their identity, or supporting the choices that they made whilst they were alive.

We are bound by the necessity to use a Deceased person’s legally registered name, so if that has not been changed, unfortunately we must use what matches paperwork received from the Registrar. It is permitted for us to refer to a person by a chosen name – my own name is a good example, as Becky is my preferred name, rather than my legal one, so whilst people are generally allowed to follow my choice, in legal situations, they can’t – but there are certain items of paperwork which must show the person’s legal name.

The other commitment we make is to the person responsible for arranging the funeral, known as the Applicant. They are the one to whom we answer, and whose wishes we must follow, we cannot take instruction from anyone else, even if someone were to insist that the Deceased person’s wishes were contrary to what the Applicant has said – we have no way of proving this, and in a technical sense, the Applicant is our customer. We would always hope that an Applicant follows a Deceased person’s wishes to the best of their knowledge, and this is why we will always advocate for discussing your funeral wishes prior to your death – if the conversation hasn’t been had, then nobody can know what you wanted.

Caring for transgender people by ensuring that their identity is honoured is important, and this is another reason that we foster close relationships with celebrants and religious leaders. If you are arranging the funeral of a transgender person and believe that their identity must be particularly sensitively acknowledged, there are certain recommendations we would make in terms of those who are familiar with the transgender community, and we know will represent them appropriately. Sadly, this still does not yet apply to everyone, and we will always do our best to help.

Hopefully, progress in acceptance and support of the transgender community will continue to be made. Positive action such as Transgender Awareness Week is one of the ways in which we are happy to help.

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Written by Becky Hughes

Community Co-Ordinator

November 15, 2023

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