A month ago, a link to an obituary was sent to me in a private message. With it, the sender expressed outrage at how the family had misgendered this person in death. As a trans person, we see this all too often. Our friends, other trans brothers and sisters, are often stripped of their identity in death by a callous, non-understanding, or unconcerned family. I too was outraged.
I shared the link to the obituary. What we saw was an image of a handsome youth with a cute little beard accompanied by the name “Kristen Ashley Bailey.” I and many others lamented this all too often occurrence. Some were more vocal in their dissent than others. I cannot know who else has shared this and expressed similar feelings.
…but what happens when we’re wrong? As trans people, we try to embrace those that fall outside the gender binary, those that don’t quite fit as male or female? How does a family respect such a person after death?
Through private message, I communicated with the deceased’s aunt. She, and the rest of the family, were very hurt by the posts and comments. They wanted to share a little about their beloved family member whom they had accepted fully.
She went by “Ash”.
Ash loved drawing, the outdoors and traveling. She had been to Paris twice. She really wanted to make a difference in this world and to that end she worked for a mental health facility and assisted others in finding employment. She found joy in helping others in need.
Her life took a turn for the worse when she found her mother, dead, from an overdose. As it would any other child, this affected her greatly.
It wasn’t long after that Ash discovered she was producing an overabundance of testosterone which caused hirsuteness. Subsequent laser treatments failed to provide relief and her condition was getting harder to hide. These unexpected life changes had a profound impact.
Eventually, with the support her family and friends, she decided to cut her hair short and keep the beard. Her family says she rocked the beard and was often flattered when people would call her sir.
One of the issues that frightened Ash was going into a public restroom. She was often annoyed that others tried to label her. To that end she did her best to educate others.
Ash had discussed transitioning with her family. They offered their full support whenever Ash was ready to start. However, the physical changes and the death of her mother were too much for Ash to handle and she took her own life.
You see, what we interpreted as a slight to one of our own, was actually a beautiful tribute to a person this family loved dearly. They could have easily used an image of Ash before the beard and short hair, but they chose to honor her instead. Kristen Ashley Bailey was still her name. Ash was only a diminutive used by friends and family. The name and pronouns used in this post and the obituary were respective of how Ash referred to herself.
I for one am ashamed at leaping to judgement even when experience tells me this situation is not the normal one. I wish to express my heartfelt apology and condolences to the family and friends of Ash. I’d like you to join me in honoring the memory of a person that didn’t quite fit in a box and worked to serve others and the family that loved her for it.