It is not my intent here to speak evil of the dead, in this case of Alexis Arquette, born Robert Arquette.
Absolutely not. Rather, it is the reporting of Arquette’s death to which I want to draw attention, since it highlights the difficulties of embracing the transgender proposition that perception is reality.
Arquette was a well-known performer and trans-activist who died on September 11 at the age of 47, reportedly of complications related to AIDS. But it appears that some time before his death, Arquette, who transitioned from male to female in his late 30’s, began to live as a male again.
So, he became she, only to become he again, which raises an important question: When writing of the late Arquette, should reference be made to he or she?
It appears that the answer depends on how Arquette identified at any given time. Thus Arquette is now being referred to both he and she, depending on what time of his/her life is being referenced. (Again, I do not write this to mock the deceased; God forbid. I write this to illustrate an important point.)
Wikipedia states that, “Her experiences were documented in the film Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother, which debuted at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.”
But the very next paragraph, quoting Arquette’s brother Richmond, refers to him repeatedly as “he,” since, as already mentioned, he reportedly began to live as a male before he passed away.
In Richmond’s own words, “Our brother Robert, who became our brother Alexis, who became our sister Alexis, who became our brother Alexis, passed this morning September 11, at 12:32 am. He was surrounded by all of his brothers and sisters, one of his nieces and several other loved ones. We were playing music for him and he passed during David Bowie’s 'Starman'. As per his wishes, we cheered at the moment that he transitioned to another dimension.”
I do hope that Robert was at peace with God before leaving this world, and I commend the love of his family who surrounded him at the time of his passing. But it is wrong for me to experience a pang of grief as I read these words: “Our brother Robert, who became our brother Alexis, who became our sister Alexis, who became our brother Alexis . . .”?
The Daily Mail had this to say about Arquette’s death: “Actress and famed transgender rights activist Alexis Arquette, who had reportedly been living as a man in his final months, died on Sunday of AIDS-related complications.”
Apparently, the Mail had no problem referring to Arquette as an “actress” before referring to “his final months.” How can an actress be a he? Is there no limit to this new semantic madness?
The Mail reported that a former male lover of Arquette hawked a sex-tape of the departed for $25,000, but the porn company buying the tape did so in order to destroy it for good, commenting, “Ms. Arquette was an icon and activist in the trans community and we could not see someone smear her memory the way the selling party was trying to do.”
So, Arquette is here a female, not a male, apparently since his fame was a female trans-activist named Alexis.
The Mail article continues, “Arquette, who died surrounded by her loved ones on Sunday morning, was born Robert in July 1969 but transitioned in 2006 – becoming one of the world's most famous transgender women.
“After transitioning, she became a high profile campaigner for LGBTQ rights but remains best known for her acting career, which included roles in Pulp Fiction and The Wedding Singer.”
Note carefully the language: “her loved ones”; “one of the world's most famous transgender women”; “she became”; “her acting career.”
And then this, among other lines: “News of her death was broken by her brother Richmond on social media, who took to Facebook to pay tribute to the late actress.”
But, the story continues, according to Robert Dupont, a former boyfriend, “Alexis was living with AIDS and he had an inoperable tumor and he had developed an infection. I was told that went to his liver and throughout his body.”
So, the name remains Alexis, but the pronouns are male again (he, he, his, his) in the midst of this sad description of Arquette’s mortal illness.
And note the Mail’s own words, interspersed in the midst of the constant references to Arquette as a female: “[Dupont] also revealed that Arquette had spent his final months living in an Actor's Fund home for people with HIV but ‘hated it’.”
So, he is he, he is she, she is she, and she is he, and if we don’t think this is perfectly fine and healthy, then we are horrific transphobes.
I pointed out in a recent article that “a March 23, 2016 headline on the Daily Mail website read, ‘Some days Annie is a girl, some days Annie is a boy and some days she's both’: The 12-year-old whose gender changes on a daily basis depending on how they feel.”
I also referenced a housing coordinator who “has clients who might be Jimmy one day, and Deloris the next,” the point being that you had to ask each day if the person who certainly looked like Jimmy was actually Deloris on a given day, even if he had been Jimmy the day before. In the words of the coordinator, “And then part of the intake is to say, well, what pronoun do you like today? It might be just today.”
Reading this fills me with sadness, and my heart longs to see people like Jimmy-Deloris and Robert-Alexis find true wholeness and deep harmony between body and soul.
This remains my heartfelt prayer, and the reports of Arquette’s passing only underscore my burden to pray for God’s best for those who identify as transgender.
If this expression of love makes me transphobic in the eyes of some, that is a label I will gladly bear in exchange, since I am convinced that God has a better way than referring to an actress as “he” and speaking of a brother who is a sister, only to become a brother again.