One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou:
The ache for home lives in all of us, that safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
As gay people, sometimes we cannot go home, because we are questioned, we are disowned, we are denied. And because of that, we often create a new family — because our birth families have shunned us — out of a group of friends, gay or straight.
I was lucky, though. While I believe that my parents may have a hard time realizing they had a gay son, it didn’t take them long to realize that a gay son was still their son, still to be loved, still to be family.
That didn’t happen for Jennifer Gable. Not in life, and most certainly not in death.
Jennifer Gable was a 32-year-old transgender woman who lived in Idaho and worked at a Wells Fargo bank. Although born a man, she had been living as a female, her true self, for the past few years and, last month, while at work, she suffered an aneurysm and died on the job.
That’s heartbreaking; what happened next was disgusting.
When her friends and co-workers attended Jennifer’s funeral, they were stunned to find an open casket, with Jennifer presented as a man – dressed in a suit, with her long cut off.
In fact, the funeral wasn’t for their friend; it was for Geoffrey Charles Gable. That’s the name in the obituary that Jennifer’s family sent to the local paper:
Geoffrey Charles Gable, 32, Boise, passed away suddenly on October 9, 2014 while at his job at Wells Fargo Bank.
He was born in Twin Falls on January 27, 1982 to Anthony Clark Gable and Lori Ann Walton.
Geoff and his brother, Steven, were raised from toddlers by their maternal grandparents, George and Joan Walton.
He attended Morningside Elementary School, O’Leary Junior High and graduated from Twin Falls High School in the year 2000.
He was married to Ann Arthurs in 2005 in Hawaii. They were later divorced.
Geoff grew up as a member of the Twin Falls First Christian Church, where he was baptized in 1996.
She was erased. There was no Jennifer; there was Geoffrey and there was ‘he’ in the obituary and ‘him’ in the obituary and ‘his’ in the obituary.
Meghan Stabler, a board member of Human Rights Campaign who had assisted Gable when she transitioned called it an “erosion’:
“Just erosion of her identity and an old photograph of how the father perceived her to be. I only knew her online. She reached out to me a couple of years ago when she was in transition. The usual: What do I need to worry about at work? Am I going to be OK? Is life going to be better? Can you assure me everything is going to be OK?”
And everything was okay until Jennifer passed away, and then her family made her out to be what they wanted her to be, a man, and not who Jennifer was: Jennifer.
“She had done what she needed to do legally to be seen as her authentic self. Her father erased her identity either though ignorance or arrogance.” — Meghan Stabler
Even the death certificate listed Jennifer Gable as male. But she wasn’t male, she was female, and no matter what her ‘family’ — the one into which she was born — wants to think, she will be Jennifer Gable in the hearts and minds of the family that truly loved her, and knew her, and wanted her.
RIP Jennifer Gable.