US: The Growing Movement to Memorialize Queerness After Death

On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that states were not allowed to ban same-sex marriages.

Greg Bourke and his husband, Michael De Leon, of Kentucky were plaintiffs in Bourke v. Beshear, one of the cases linked to Obergefell. Less than a year later in May 2016, their marriage now legally recognized, they faced a new hurdle: getting St. Michael Cemetery in Louisville to allow them to memorialize their marriage—and their activism—on their gravestone.

The design that Bourke and De Leon submitted had both their names side by side, below an image of the Supreme Court and a pair of wedding rings. The Archdiocese of Louisville, which owns the cemetery, rejected it, saying, "the depiction presented was not in keeping with Church teaching about marriage. 

Bourke's family members are buried at St. Michael. If he and De Leon want to join them, their only recourse is apparently to submit a more heteronormative design the Archdiocese would approve of.

Historically, death for members of the LGBTQ community has signaled the beginning of a process of suppression of the fact that they were queer. This has played out in several ways, only one of which is restrictive cemetery regulations. Other times it's the doing of disapproving family members.

Gravestones aren't the only place where memorialization has historically been a vehicle for erasure. Written tributes of LGBTQ people have all too often included a lot of tiptoeing around the decedent's sexual orientation. The not-so-secret code phrase for gay men of "lifelong bachelor" still stubbornly shows up on a few dozen paid death notices every year.Read more via VICE