Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Monday, 18 May 2015

Death of Linda

This was sent to me by a good friend who has lost her loved parent over the last year, I have been very privileged to have her as long term friend, over the years knowing her has helped to make me a better person, which ever one it was I was trying to be at the time.

She was a friend long before I came out as being trans and certainly before I was aware that her parent was, we can never be too sure how many lives we touch, how many of us there are out there, and how much our behaviour can affect others.

My friend Linda, who is biologically my Dad sadly passed away at the end of last month.

She had spent the last month in hospital where, to their credit, none of the professionals were at all phased about her transcendences, and she was, without question on a female ward.  They generally shrugged their shoulders at me when I mentioned it.

What I did notice though is that, like it or not, men and women do think and behave differently, and in this case, although undoubtedly female in most respects the typically male head in the sand about illness was very much present.    We had a few difficulties in getting the hospital to respond appropriately to someone who was just a month from death, including at one point, being sent home without any care support which was so clearly needed.  

Was this because stereotypically a male and female with behave differently and conversations with a female and male patient often end in different results, simply because of the unspoken ‘understanding’ of genetic behaviour?  We shall never know.   Anyway, thankfully, the suffering was short lived and I moved onto the next stage - registering the death.  Someone should do a PhD on it.

Death Registration

In order to register a death you are supposed to provide a copy of a birth certificate and any certificates which have effected a name change at any time.  For women that'll usually be a marriage certificate, in this case it was the legal name change document.   The Registrar seemed pretty un-phased by the whole thing but one interesting aspect turned up.     The database, initially couldn't cope with registering a female death relating to a male birth and the system advised him to ring for help!   The result was quite surprising - I was allowed to choose what sex to register the death in!  Really? ….  Really? …..I could have chosen to register Linda as male despite legal name change documents and a total medical gender reassignment having taken place?  Apparently so.      You may wish to note this in your will, or at least have the discussion with the person who is likely to register you.    I did, of course, do the right thing and choose female!


Before I had registered the death I'd made a start with organising a funeral.  I told the priest about the situation and decided that, for the sake of those who knew Linda as a male and for historical accuracy (I'm a bit of a sucker for getting it right) the service should refer to Linda formerly Len.  I then spoke to the funeral director about the name plate on the coffin and had thought that I would like both names.  After all, I’m not just burying a dear friend but also my Dad.  The news was not good.   You can only have on the coffin plate the name registered at the death.   So, Linda it is then.

Having then obtained the death certificate and seen that it states ‘name’ and ‘formerly known as‘,  it turns out  you can have that on the coffin so long as it’s stated on the death certificate.  By that point, I had to ask myself, why, actually did I want to put both names on?

All the reasons were to do with other people not the deceased themselves,  so I got over myself and stuck with Linda.  To be honest, I think it was a very courageous move to go through the process and if other people have a problem with that - that’s their problem.  This has always been my attitude but despite that, everyone has a right to bury their Dad right?

As it turns out, the one family member I was trying to be sensitive for has decided not to attend!  I’m still in a bit of an odd situation regarding my Dad but to be honest, I really feel I lost him at the moment of reassignment, so we will bury Linda with a  nod to Len for historical accuracy.

Letting the Cat out of the Bag

One more decision to make was what to tell my 9 year old daughter about ‘Nanny’  especially since I'd decided the funeral would mention Len and there could be people there who would talk about ‘him’.   I've never had a problem with her knowing one day.  I just wanted to wait until she was old enough to have some sensible understanding and at a point she wouldn't tell everyone at school and that I could explain that this wasn't because there is anything to be ashamed of but because the world is full of people who tend to get aggressive when they come across things they don't understand.

I was determined to tell her before the funeral but picking the moment wasn't so easy.  The day I’d decided to address it when I had time to spend as much time as was needed she was sent home from school sick!   However, with a  firm will and a little patience these things tend to find their moment and in sitting at home with a pile of admin in front of me she asked to see the Death Certificate.   Perfect moment!  It seems to have gone well.  Her first thought was why hadn't I told her sooner.  She was then delighted that she did have a grandparent on my side of the family and then we had all the practical questions which I answered honestly.   Fortunately, your very own Paula has helped pave the way to some extent although she probably now knows more about her that she might have otherwise!   Her conclusion seems to be that it’s a bit weird but there’s no real harm in it - more progressive than much of the world today me thinks.  I’ll settle for that for now.
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