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Transgender advocates seek respect in death

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Rhode Island has always been a leader in respecting the rights of transgender people while they are alive, but legislation introduced by Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence), H7765, would help protect people from being misgendered in death. Upon passage, the proposed legislation “would require that a death certificate reflect the decedent’s gender identity, as reported by the next of kin or the best qualified person available, unless the person completing the death certificate is presented with a document that memorializes the decedent’s gender transition.”

Samson Hampton

According to advocates, the bill clarifies “the ways in which a person’s gender can be identified for their death certificate including using their driver’s licenses and other documentation. This legislation will provide clarity about the wishes of transgender people in their death and not allow intentional or unintentional misgendering.”

The battle for gender identity plays significant role in the lives of transgender people, it is important that their wishes are respected at the time of their death. Transgender people should not have to live with the fear that their identity will be erased in death.

Many people waited until past 11pm to have their testimony heard in the House Committee on the Judiciary meeting Tuesday evening. Their testimony lasted until just past midnight.


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Some spoke of supportive families, who would respect their gender identity after death, others spoke of families who might erase their gender status and their identity, because they don’t approve or understand their transition.

All the testimony is presented below.

Edie Ajello introduces the bill:

Walter Reis:

Samson Hampton:

Terri Spencer:

Jaye Watts:

Denise Crooks read the testimony of a funeral director who feels the legislation will provide valuable guidance for her business.

Selene Means:

Wendy Becker:

Galen Auer:

Eve Savitsky:

Michele Paliatta:

Ange Strom-Weber:

Representatives Cale Keable (Democrat, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester) and Jason Knight (Democrat, District 67, Warren) discussion about life insurance.

Dr David Savitsky:

Cale Keable:


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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com