Passing Through: The End-of-Life Decisions of Lesbians and Gay Men


111 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55266-117-2pa
DDC 306.84'8




Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is librarian emeritus and former assistant director of
libraries at the University of Saskatchewan Library. He is also
dramaturge for the Festival de la Dramaturgie des Prairies.


Remarkably up-to-date, Jeanette Auger’s book eschews the confessional
issues presented as moral imperatives in the same-sex marriage debate
while diligently bringing to the fore the humanitarian issue of
equality. With its many references to websites for information and
(partisan) opinions, it promises to remain current.

Auger, who teaches sociology at Acadia University, bases her study on a
questionnaire distributed online by Gay Canada, EGALE, and Same-Sex
Marriage as well as on further online discussions, e-mail and postal
contacts, and a journal publication of the questionnaire targeting gay
men and lesbians in Ontario, British Columbia, and Atlantic Canada. She
first writes a succinct résumé of the legal realities in Canada, but
the bulk of the text gives voice to the diverse experiences and opinions
of her respondents. All point to the need for strategies to keep control
of their lives, particularly in facing inevitable death, grief, and

It may come as a surprise to learn, for instance, that gay men are
automatically rejected for blood or organ donation even if they have
tested HIV negative or have been in a long-term monogamous relationship.

Auger does not address the theological meaning or application of
“marriage” and is careful to point out that many gays do not feel
any need to mimic the heterosexual institution. She notes that gays and
lesbians frequently live their lives separated or alienated from their
biological families, sometimes closeted even from co-workers and all but
a few trusted friends.

Social and health crises (separation, unexpected or approaching death)
often throw these constructed lives among “chosen families” into
disarray, allowing uncaring or hostile folk with legal rights to swoop
in, ignoring all personal wishes and plans: “[S]ame-sex couples have
to plan for end of life more so than heterosexual couples, in light of
the added legal documents required [even RDPs do not provide those
registered with the rights/obligations of married

couples under estate and intestate legislation].” Even making these
arrangements evokes pain, fear, or danger for many. That fact alone
speaks volumes!

Passing Through is a must-read for everyone, straight or gay, on either
side of the same-sex marriage question.


Auger, Jeanette., “Passing Through: The End-of-Life Decisions of Lesbians and Gay Men,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,