Her name was Jennifer Gable. She was 32 years old when a brain aneurism tragically ended her life on October 9, 2014. She’d spent the last few years of that life living as the woman she was. She’d reached out to the trans community and the community reached back. She was a trans woman, and that’s how we’ll remember her. Jennifer Gable was one of us.
Jennifer’s family, however, didn’t see it that way. Jennifer was buried as a man, under a name she’d legally discarded, dressed in a men’s suit she would not have worn when she lived. Her long feminine hair was cut short into a masculine style she would not have chosen for herself. Jennifer Gable was forced back into a gender role in death, which she had rejected in life. All of the outward signs of Jennifer’s true identity, everything which physically presented her to the rest of the world as the woman she was, rendered invisible by her family as they laid her to rest.
We don’t know if it was done as an expression of or in deference to bigotry against trans people, or if it was due to ignorance and a lack of understanding. The answer to that question, though, is less important than the ease with which her family was able to simply ignore Jennifer’s obvious wishes and de-transition her in death.
In Idaho, where Jennifer lived, a trans person has no civil rights. There are no state laws in Idaho forbidding discrimination based on gender identity, no way of achieving full legal recognition as a gender which does not appear on one’s birth certificate. In short, Jennifer’s family was able to ignore who she was and de-transition her in death because according to the laws of the State of Idaho, Jennifer Gable is still legally considered a man.
This story hits home for me on multiple levels. First, because I’m 52, right around the age when many of us first begin to contemplate our own mortality, as you come to realize that statistically speaking you’re now fully into the second half, closer to the end of your life than you are to the beginning.
I’m comforted by the knowledge that than when my time comes my family and friends will bury and remember me as I lived, as the woman I am. I don’t need to spell it out, they get it, and they accept me for who I am. Not every trans person is so fortunate.
The other reason this story struck a chord with me is because it reminded me of when my father passed late last year and the funeral home asked me, as the oldest of his six children, if I had a problem with any of the arrangements. My father had been married three times in his life, and he’d made it known that he wanted to be buried next to his third wife, not my mother.
It seemed that there was some concern at the funeral home that some of us might have a problem with that, but all six of us were of the same opinion. Even if we had disagreed (we didn’t), our wishes weren’t relevant, only his were. This was about honoring Dad and the way he lived his life, nothing else. We loved and respected him far too much to even consider doing anything other than exactly what we knew he wanted.
Forcible de-transitioning in death is the greatest possible betrayal anyone can inflict on the memory of a trans loved one, and the greatest conceivable insult to our community as a whole.
We may never know Jennifer Gable’s full story, or what her family’s actual motivations were for laying her to rest as a man. What we do know is that Jennifer reached out to other trans women seeking answers. We know she had legally changed her name to Jennifer. We know she saw herself as a woman, and we know that’s how she lived the last few years of her life.
We also know one more thing: We will remember Jennifer Gable as the woman she was.
The online memorial guest book set up under Jennifer’s former male name is filled with condolence notes from trans people and allies who remember her as she lived. Even in tragedy, even in death, we stand up for our own.
Her name was Jennifer Gable. She was a trans woman, and that’s how we’ll remember her.
Jennifer Gable was one of us.