CA Transgenders Can Now Choose Sex on Death Certificate

L.A. Gay Pride Parade (David McNew / Getty)
David McNew / Getty

By next month, California, ever-eager to push the envelope on social issues, will become the first state to let transgendered people list their changed identity on their death certificates.

Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) wrote the law after she was contacted by Maya Scott-Chung, a friend of Christopher Lee, nee Kristina Lee. Lee, who committed suicide in 2012 at age 48, had a driver’s license with the name Christopher and the sex listed as ‘M”, but the death certificate name was Kristina, despite Lee’s friends informing the coroner of the driver’s license.

Lee had secondary male sex characteristics, including facial hair, but still had female genitals, as sex reassignment surgery had not been performed. Lee co-founded the San Francisco Transgender Film festival and in 2002 served as the first female-to-male grand marshal in the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade.

Scott-Chung told Bay Area public radio station KQED, “It felt like spitting on his grave. When they put RIP on people’s tombstones, it’s rest in peace. And I just felt like Christopher’s spirit will not rest in peace with a death certificate that says female.”

Atkins’ law states that the sex listed on the driver’s license would trump any wishes by relatives of the deceased to make the death certificate of transgendered individuals reflect the sex of their birth.