By Ash Hayhurst
In March 2019 I began a job as a funeral arranger. I'd never done anything like it before, and everyone in my life was curious. Questions would often lead to long winding conversations about what would happen when we died. Many of my friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, had questions about what they could do to make sure their wishes would be respected. They were worried about family members planning a funeral for them that would 'gloss over' their queer identity. My trans friends were worried about having their gender identity respected in death, and I wanted to know what the law said about which name would go on all of the funeral paperwork if I didn't have a Gender Recognition Certificate. So I started to dig for answers while I was training, and that's why I wrote this little guide.
The guide isn't just for LGBTQ+ people and their families, it's also for funeral professionals and anyone who works with LGBTQ+ folk. My hope is that it will help queer people to feel more empowered so that they can make the choices that are right for them. I hope it will also open up conversations between professionals about how we can help bereaved family members, and provide a space where they feel safe to be open about the whole identity of the person who has died.
I often think about how we can improve inclusion within the funeral profession. I think it's important for members of staff to feel safe to be open about being queer, and to acknowledge events like LGBT History Month and Transgender Day of Remembrance. We could certainly improve the visibility of being a queer-friendly profession with signage in our places of work and on our websites. I would love to see people wear rainbow lanyards or small enamel pins as a show of solidarity.
The most important thing is to be welcoming and compassionate with the language we use, and to try and make everyone feel like they don't have to ask "will my funeral director be queer-friendly?". This is the last thing people need to be worrying about at such a difficult time in their lives.