AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A Georgia man who helped change case law involving transgender rights passed away this week.
The last time 11Alive spoke to 25-year-old Rowan Elijah Feldhaus, he had one thing on his mind.
“I wanted to get my name changed before I graduated,” Feldhaus said.
Two months later, he did get his named changed, but the Augusta resident will never graduate. On Tuesday, he died from septic shock following complications from a hysterectomy surgery.
The operation was part of his transition from female to male following his year-long fight to legally change his name from Rebecca to Rowan Elijah.
“I didn’t want to make it a trans issue,” Feldhaus said. “I wanted to make it a human rights issue.”
In 2016, an Augusta area judge denied his request to change his name, citing his personal policy and calling it a type of fraud on the general public.
This past January, the Georgia State of Appeals disagreed and reversed the judge’s ruling.
Before his death, Feldhaus’ mother Mellissa, said she was proud of her son for standing up for himself.
“Just because you were born female doesn’t mean you were meant to be female, and when you find out who and what you were mean to be, then go for it,” she said. “I have a lot of respect for him because it’s a brave move.”
Rowan’s attorney, Beth Latrell, said Rowan, and another transgender man part of the appeal, helped change case law.
The state Supreme Court’s ruling means Georgia judges are now prohibited from denying name changes to transgender citizens based on their personal beliefs.
“Their courage will go a long way to help a lot of people,” Littrell said.
A young man remembered for his determination, who died with the name he chose for himself.
“He had to pave the way for others,” his mother said.
Rowan’s family plans to donate his organs. A celebration of life is scheduled this Saturday in Augusta.
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