Born under the lunar new year of the Dragon, Christopher was a powerful and fierce two-spirit being who touched many individuals and communities during his lifetime. He served as the first FTM Grand Marshal of San Francisco’s 2002 LGBT Pride Parade. Also an award-winning filmmaker, Christopher co-founded “Tranny Fest,” the world’s first transgender cultural festival. Now called the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival, it stands as a powerful testament to his legacy.
In his death, though, Christopher was unable to be identified as he chose to be in his life. After Christopher passed away, the coroner identified his gender as “female” on his death certificate. Christopher’s loved ones who spoke with the coroners said that he identified as a “Female to Male transgender man” and gave them written documentation to reflect this. The coroners also had his Driver’s License which identified him as “male.” To honor Christopher’s life and legacy, friends contacted the Transgender Law Center to see if his death certificate could be amended. Attorneys with TLC identified the process to amend a California death certificate. They discovered that, unfortunately, the amendment does not result in a correction to the original death certificate but once properly prepared is simply stapled to the original.
As a result TLC is evaluating steps that can be taken to improve the process of amending death certificates as well as to ensure that the gender identity of transgender people is accurately reflected on the certificate of their death.
Christopher Lee’s close friends are creating a Christopher Lee Memorial StoryCorps archives, a book of community stories with Transgress Press and a GLBT Historical Society archives. If you would like to contribute, please contact email@example.com.
End of Life Planning for Trans People
Matt Wood, Staff Attorney
Many transgender people wonder if they should go through the hassle of getting a court order or other documentation to change their name and gender on their birth certificate. The process for changing name and gender on identification is especially time-consuming because it involves filling out numerous forms and, in some cases, paying fees. Obtaining legal recognition of name and gender change isn’t required for a person to be protected by California’s strong antidiscrimination laws, but it goes a long way in helping establish a person’s right to live – and die – as their authentic self.
Another way to ensure that your gender identity is respected as you age, no matter where you live, is to make a living will (or “advanced health care directive”) that provides guidance about who you want to make decisions if you become ill or incapacitated. You can also use a living will to make clear what name and pronouns should be used for you if you do become incapacitated, and how you want to be dressed and groomed in a hospital, assisted living facility, or funeral home. Making your wishes clear prevents any confusion and inhibits a family member from making a decision that is not in your best interest.
If you would like a sample living will or have legal questions about living wills or other end of life issues, please contact Transgender Law center’s legal team at firstname.lastname@example.org
- The documents every LGBT older adult needs (from National Resource Center on LGBT Aging)