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  • Liz Dunnebacke

Introducing the Louisiana LGBTQ+ End of Life Guide

Writing an end of life guide for the LGBTQ+ community in Louisiana has been a passion of Ezra's since they began their journey in funeral service. After confronting negative reactions from their family towards their queer relationship, they began to ask themselves what might happen if they or their partner were to die, and if their wishes would be honored. They set out to answer these complicated questions while working as a licensed funeral director and saw first-hand how unprepared the conventional funeral industry is to meet the needs of our gender-diverse community. As in so many places, the culture of the deathcare industry here in Louisiana is not always welcoming or accessible those who do not identify as cisgender or heterosexual.

In early 2020 Ezra contributed to an international conversation about gender discrimination in deathcare in the article Trans Death Rights are Human Rights for the death positive online collective, The Order of the Good Death and with the support of Wake began to write a more complete guide directed at their Louisiana community. Coming together with Wake staff, Nicholas Hite of LGBTQ+ centered The Hite Law Group, and genderqueer health educator and activist Dietz of Tidal, as well as many other community partners, we have put together a guide that is thorough, accurate, and consistent with U.S. and Louisiana laws.

We are thrilled to share with you the result: The Louisiana LGBTQ+ End of Life Guide. This practical manual for making informed choices about your own, or a loved-one’s, end-of-life care is targeted to Louisiana residents identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and to their caregivers. The guide walks the reader through the basics of end-of-life decisions: how to be sure your wishes will be respected if you can no longer live independently, how to make sure they are respected after you die, how to legally formalize the role of your designated representative, and so forth.

While many are unprepared for the issues that attend the end of life, the LGBTQ+ community can be even more at risk of experiencing discrimination and disenfranchisement. The goal of this guide is to close the gap of information on end-of-life care and funeral services for the LGBTQ+ community, since much of the existing information is directed toward heterosexual couples and nuclear families.

In addition, the guide aims to identify key areas of risk for the LGBTQ+ community within the legal system. For example, legal definitions of “next-of-kin” often trump the designation of a chosen representative. It’s easy for one’s wishes to be subverted by a hostile or emotionally disconnected family of origin. However, with the right information and legal steps in place, one’s identity and wishes can be honored through the end- of-life and funeral processes.

This guide is made possible by generous funding from the Coughlin-Saunders Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation's LGBTQ Fund, and the bountiful donations of so many good people during Wake's GiveNOLA Day 2022 campaign. We are thrilled to make this guide available to all in both a digital and a print-friendly version, available for download on Wake's website.

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