Photo by Facebook
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. It continues: “Geoff played the piano, trombone, violin, and guitar. He played in jazz bands in junior high and high school. He had a nice tenor voice and was a member of Jive and Chamber Singers while in High School. He was also a member of the National Honor Society. Geoff loved baseball and was a catcher for many of his little league teams, as well as playing one baseball season in High School.”
Photo by Parke’s Magic Valley Funeral Home
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.”
The woman behind the effort, Brooklynne Lee Muffett, says she met Jennifer through a dating website four years ago, but that the two wound up being friends instead. “She was very funny, bubbly, full of movie quotes, and open hearted,” Muffett tells Yahoo Parenting. “She would do anything for anyone. But she was very lonely.” Being estranged from her family “really hurt her,” she says, noting that she struggled with depression as a result. “For them to betray her by turning their back on her was one thing. But to take over when she died and put her in a box as a man? I don’t think she would like that.”
It’s safe to assume she would not, even with just a slight perusal of her Facebook page. After posting a new photo of herself there in 2013 and receiving several likes, Jennifer wrote the following. “Ok, but, I’m… rather insecure and, I would just like to know how I’m doing compared to other cisgendered women? I mean, isn’t that kind of all of our hope — to not only pass but be unmistakably female? I just want to know, like on a scale of 1-10, you know? But, btw, thank you, so much!”