A recently introduced legislative bill in California would change the way deceased transgender people are identified on death certificates, according to The California Report. The "Respect After Death Act," introduced by Assemblymember Toni Atkins of San Diego, would require individuals completing a death certificate to record the decedent's gender identity, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.
Until 2012, only transgender Californians who underwent surgery could change the gender marker on their birth certificate, the document referred to by a coroner or funeral director when filling out a death certificate. Input from next-of-kin could override inaccurate documentation, but for transgender people without supportive blood-related relatives, the gender marker on their birth certificate would take precedent over more easily updated forms of identification such as a state-issued driver's license.
This was the case for Christopher Lee, a transgender man, filmmaker, and activist who took his own life in 2012. Lee's driver's license listed him as male, but his birth certificate had not been updated at the time of his death. He was not in close contact with his family, and his chosen family, including Maya Scott-Chung, had no say in how he was legally recognized. Scott-Chung and her husband drove to Lee's hometown of San Diego to meet with Assemblymember Atkins and call for a change in state law.