By Lucy Clay
Funeral directors are generally kind and compassionate people and want to give people the best possible support. However, like everyone they come with their own personal and professional experiences and some will be more confident in supporting people from the LGBTQ+ community than others.
What is different?
Many members of the LGBTQ+ community have experienced their romantic relationships being dismissed or misinterpreted. Often this is by individuals with no ill-intent, but sometimes some people struggle to see the whole picture.
Although misrepresentation is often not intended to cause offense, it can cause the feeling of not feeling acknowledged or respected. Extending this to funerals, I believe that the best way to ensure that our funeral needs are met, is to make sure that we do what we can to make sure that the right people lead the arrangements and that our wishes are known.
Who will make the funeral arrangements?
I know that some people worry about how they will be represented after they have died; those that are tasked with making funeral arrangements may not create an event that truly reflects their life and who was important to them (and in what capacity).
In theory, anyone can arrange and pay for a funeral. However, it is usual for the executors named in a will to take responsibility for the funeral arrangements. They may choose to delegate the responsibility to someone else and simply receive the funeral invoice, which can be paid from any assets in the estate.
If someone dies without a will (this is called “intestate”) then arrangements may fall to their next of kin, or anyone else who steps forward to make arrangements, and isn’t contested.
Funeral choices and wishes
Every funeral is unique, and it really is possible to create an event that truly reflects the beliefs, values, spirituality and personality of the person who has died. Some people from the LGBTQ+ community may want the funeral to reflect their relationships and identity whereas others may choose for this aspect of their lives to be relatively private and understated.
The key is that the funeral choices reflect the person who has died and are helpful for their friends and family – and that they are not made by the funeral director. If you know what you would like (or not like) for your funeral that we would strongly encourage you to write it down and let people close to you know. This may be one or two simple wishes, or a more elaborate plan – any level of instruction is helpful and fulfilling those wishes is likely to be very consoling for the people who matter the most to you.
If you aren’t sure what you want, then I would encourage you to read “Funerals Your Way” – a funeral planning guide written by my colleague. It is an easy read, which highlights your choices and prompts you to consider what you think works best for you.
Your funeral wishes can be included in a will, or as a separate document. It is important to know that they are not legally binding however, in more cases than not, they are fulfilled by those responsible for making the funeral arrangements.
Some specifics about dressing and personal care
What we wear can be an important part of how we express ourselves. Your funeral director should offer to dress you in your own clothes, so if there’s something specific that you’d like to wear, a particular style you’d like honouring (or one that you’d rather was avoided completely) it can be helpful to record these wishes. If someone is going to be cremated, then there are some restrictions about what they can wear (to minimise harmful emissions) but it is often possible to find an alternative in a natural material which will have the same effect.
Some people find it helpful and important to be involved in physically caring for someone after they have died. This may include styling their hair, applying their make-up, or painting their nails in the manner they liked best. It can also include washing a person and performing other aspects of personal care for them. In most circumstances, your funeral director should facilitate this in the manner that works best for you. If it is important for you to be cared for by individuals of a particular gender, then this is usually possible.
Funeral directors understand the importance of confidentiality and if they are a member of a trade association then they will be bound to their confidentiality standards. They will aim to keep confidential information private and will not share any unnecessary information about gender, sexuality, personal and sexual relationships with colleagues, other professionals or anyone involved on the funeral arrangements.
- Write a will and appoint an executor that you trust to respect your wishes
- Talk to people close to you about what you want and why
- Document your funeral wishes and leave them somewhere safe (and easy to find)