'Transfesto’ demands greater awareness of gender identity after death

The Corpse Project hopes to encourage more trans-friendly funeral practices with the help of new research

Jenny Marc
Thursday 30 June 2016 13:54 BST
The Corpse Project's Transfesto

Today researchers and activists in London released a ‘transfesto’, calling for greater awareness of issues faced by transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming people after they die.

The manifesto calls on the funeral industry to develop more trans-friendly practices and for official death-related paperwork to be more trans-inclusive. It also outlines plans to make trans-specific legal information more easily accessible.

“Trans people must constantly self-advocate in life — for those of us with the privilege to plan for our futures instead of just our immediate survival, there is always a worry for us that our corpses will not be respected in death,” says Morgan Potts, a member of the Dysphoria Collective, who participated in the research.

In death, many transgender people worry that they’ll either be misgendered, or that their gender identity will be challenged or erased altogether by family members, funeral homes or public institutions. Concerns include ensuring that their chosen gender, pronoun and name is used both on official documents and in memorial ceremonies regardless of the body’s appearance.

“I decided to take time outside of what I usually do to specifically think about this head-on, because there’s a very terrifying, looming question of what happens to our bodies when we’re not here to self-advocate anymore.”

Mr Potts, along with a dozen others, explored these issues with a non-profit group called The Corpse Project, which is investigating how bodies are dealt with after death.

In addition to speaking with different groups about their attitudes, concerns and questions related to death, The Corpse Project is also carrying out scientific research and surveying current practices.

The group, which began its research in June of last year, received funding from The Wellcome Trust to carry out its work.

In addition to releasing the ‘transfesto’, today the group has published findings on how to make current cremation and burial practices more eco-friendly.

“We reckon that most people think about their death actively perhaps one day a year,” says Sophie Churchill, leader of The Corpse Project. “So it’s important for them to give it a little more attention.”

“But it’s helpful for you to live a good life if you’re really accepting of the fact that one day it will come to an end. It helps you make the most of every day.”

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