The Remember Me project case study “Who Were They? Trans Identities and Memorialisation” gets underway.
Press Release: Researchers at the University of Hull are embarking on the first ever work into how trans and gender variant people are memorialised and commemorated after death.
The case study, called ‘Who Were They: Trans Identities and Memorialisation’, will look at how the identities of trans people are commemorated within families and communities, and any potential conflicts which may arise. It will be led by Dr Louis Bailey (Research Fellow) who wants to get a better understanding of how the trans community are memorialised and whether they are remembered as their felt gender identity or the gender assigned to them at birth and the sensitivities around that.
Dr Bailey said: “Our research explores an uncharted field, and explores the ways in which trans identities are commemorated after death. Central here is a discussion of the ways in which family members and friends of the deceased negotiate memorialisation, highlighting instances where the gender identity of the deceased is not recognised or accepted by the bereaved. This feeds into wider discussions around contested identity and the need to ensure respect for the deceased whilst also maintaining sensitivity towards the bereaved.”
Dr Bailey helped to set up the Centre for End of Life Studies at the University of Hull where his work focused on the care pathways around dementia and end of life, along with Professor Margaret Holloway. He was also involved with Wellcome Trust-funded research exploring the role of online memorialisation in the bereavement experiences of those who had lost a loved one to suicide.
Dr Bailey has a long track record of working with and for the trans community both within the voluntary and community sector, the NHS and the Department of Health. His research focuses on transgender health equality issues over the life course and in relation to ageing, end of life, death and memorialisation.
Field work will begin on the project in November.
Dr Bailey said: “Most people would assume that how you lived in life, you would expect to be remembered in death. But that is not always the case. We want to find out how people are commemorated and in what ways, by different groups of people. We are looking to talk to people to find out whether they have lost anybody, if they have attended a funeral and what their experience of that was like. We are anticipating that there will be conflict between mourners, typically family members and friends of the deceased, in terms of how they remember the deceased. Friends may conduct private ceremonies or they may attend a family event where they perhaps feel the person has been misrepresented, or, in some instances, they may not been allowed to attend the funeral because of the families’ attitudes around gender variance.”
The study will also look at some more high profile transgender deaths, such as deaths from suicide or murder cases, looking at what gender references and pronouns are used in writing, including press articles.
The study is in three parts. Part one will examine the personal views and preferences of trans people themselves via an online survey designed to highlight trans people’s attitudes towards death, their personal wishes and preferences around memorialisation and any religious and spiritual beliefs. The survey also asks participants whether they have known trans people who have died and, if so, what memorial practices, rituals or services they engaged with in order to commemorate them. Part two explores the ways in which trans people’s identities and lives are remembered and represented post-death by family members, friends, significant others and wider community networks.
The third part will see Dr Bailey attend a selection of events to mark the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Dr Bailey said: “The annual Transgender Day of Remembrance is an international event that bears witness to the sheer number of trans people who have lost their lives due to transphobic violence. It is a time for the community to come together to mourn the deceased and to publically mark the honouring of their identities. It serves as a ceremony of resistance in a world that continues to erase trans people’s identities and selfhood both during life and after death.”
The study is part of a wider research project being carried out at the University called ‘Remember Me – The Changing Face of Memorialisation’, led by Emeritus Professor Margaret Holloway. The 30-month multidisciplinary project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council AHRC with a grant totalling £850,000, is the first systematic attempt to study new types of mourning rituals surrounding death and dying.
Other strands to the research includes looking at memorialisation among Polish migrants in Hull, death arising from armed combat and dementia sufferers.
Research will be carried out by historians, social scientists, archaeologists and ethnographers and culminates in a major national conference and public exhibition to coincide with City of Culture celebrations next year.
For media enquiries, please contact Stella Harkness on (01482) 466837
For more information about the University of Hull, see www.hull.ac.uk
For more information about the ‘Remember Me’ study, see www.hull.ac.uk/rememberme
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