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Your guide to arranging an LGBTQ+ funeral

Arranging a funeral can be an emotional experience, but for some LGBTQ+ people it can be particularly difficult.

Our research revealed 25% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people expect to face prejudice when arranging a funeral.*

If you’re estranged from your family, a common concern is that they might take over your funeral plans, so your wishes aren’t carried out. You might worry that your relationship with your partner won’t be respected, or your sexuality could be revealed against your will.

That’s why finding a funeral director who not only understands these concerns but can help you plan a truly personalised funeral to celebrate your own, or a loved one’s life, is incredibly important.

Why does being LGBTQ+ matter for funerals?

‘End-of-life care, death and funerals aren’t talked about much in LGBTQ+ communities,’ says Claudia Carvell, chair of Co-op’s Respect LGBTQ+ Network. ‘Maybe because the process of living in the present is hard enough.’

But it is important to think about your own or a partner’s funeral. While many LGBTQ+ people have strong relationships with their families, others may be not be in contact with them. If you don’t specify your funeral wishes – and who you’d like to carry them out – your estranged family could end up arranging your funeral.

This can lead to a number of common concerns [see below] but you can appoint an executor, someone who is legally responsible for organising your funeral. This could be your partner or a friend who knows you’re LGBTQ+ and respects this part of your identity. You can also put your wishes in your will, so your executor can follow them to the letter.

Planning an LGBTQ+ funeral

One of the biggest worries for LGBTQ+ people while funeral planning is their identity not being recognised. ‘I’ve heard of funerals where parents used the birth name and birth gender of the person who died, even if that’s not the gender they lived as,’ Claudia says. ‘That can be really harrowing for their friends, especially their partner, to hear.’

Your loved one could also be dressed in the ‘wrong’ clothes for their gender, or the wrong pronouns might used in the order of service or even on their headstone.

Clothing may also be important to your friends and ‘chosen’ family. If your loved one was part of the drag community, for example, asking guests to wear traditional funeral attire doesn’t exactly honour who they are or who your loved one was.

Another common fear while planning an LGBTQ+ funeral is your relationship not being recognised; some families may try to prevent you attending the funeral altogether. ‘This doesn’t allow you to grieve properly,’ says Claudia. ‘It also denies who they truly were – you, your friends and chosen family may know your loved one better or more authentically than their birth family, so it can be really hard if you’re all shut out of the funeral.’

Of course, this isn’t the experience for every LGBTQ+ person but thinking about what you’d like at your funeral, and how to make it unique to you, is important, whatever your gender or sexuality.

Finding the right funeral director

If you’re planning a funeral for yourself or a partner, it’s important to find a funeral director who respects your wishes. If you want some extra support, take a friend who understands you to your first meeting.

‘Talk honestly about who you are and what you want,’ Claudia says. ‘Be clear about the things that matter. If the funeral director doesn’t ‘get’ you, or they’re not trying to – such as using the wrong pronouns even when you’ve told them what you prefer – you can walk away.’

Your funeral director should be sympathetic, respectful and helpful, as they should with every client. ‘A funeral is not just a financial investment, but an emotional one too,’ Claudia adds, ‘so you want someone who 100% understands who you are and what you want.’

The most important thing is not ‘outing’ a friend or loved one if their sexuality or gender identity wasn’t public. Make sure you have their permission to tell the funeral director, and anyone else who is told as part of the funeral process. If your loved one would prefer to keep this part of their identity private, you could hold a memorial service with your chosen family after the funeral.

For more advice on finding LGBTQ+ friendly funeral services, contact Stonewall, Switchboard , or local LGBTQ+ support groups.

Personalising your funeral

Just as you can choose a funeral director, you can choose the kind of funeral you want too. It can be religious or non-religious, a simple service in your favourite beauty spot, or as extravagant as you like.

There are plenty of ways you can personalise a funeral, too. You can decorate the coffin with photos or messages, ask everyone to dress in your favourite colour, or even make your final journey in an alternative hearse. The readings, music and flowers can also be tailored to suit your passions and personality.

Talk to your funeral director about any ideas you have for personalising a funeral. They will honour your requests, from dressing in the right clothes to the guest list, to make sure you get your funeral, your way.

‘If something is really important to you, you could also put it in your will to make sure you’re remembered in all the ways you want,’ Claudia says. ‘You have the right to be respected in death, just as in life.’

For more information on arranging or attending a funeral, see our helpful guides

*Research carried out by YouGov in November 2013. 522 LGBTQ+ adults from the UK were surveyed for a joint report by campaign group Stonewall and Co-op Funeralcare.