Speculating about Alexis Arquette’s gender does no one any good

Speculating about Alexis Arquette’s gender does no one any good
Alexis Arquette Photo: Robert Duponttwin via Facebook
After transgender actress and activist Alexis Arquette died over the weekend, her obituaries contained what was, for some, a troubling tribute by her brother Richmond. The pronouns he used for his sibling shifted from sentence to sentence, “he” then “she,” “him” then “her.” And that sparked many conversations and debates about whether her family might be misgendering Arquette, and complaints that the inconsistency had a triggering effect on some trans readers.

Now come GayStarNews, RadarOnline and the Daily Mail tabloids with photographs of Arquette snapped a month ago by Richard Dupont, featuring Arquette, actress Jaid Barrymore (mother to Drew) and his brother Robert. And in the photographs, Arquette is presenting as male.

Alexis Arquette
Alexis Arquette Richard Dupont via Facebook

Richmond Arquette eloquently addressed his pronoun choice in a note on Facebook Monday, in response to what he said are people “offended by my use of the male pronoun in referring to Alexis in a Facebook post I made shortly after her passing, a post that was picked up and quoted by various news outlets.”

He described a conversation he had with one woman who accused him of being “offensive and transphobic,” and how in time they agreed that his sibling “Transcended Gender:”

“Alexis was known for some of her life as a male, he was known for some of his life as a woman, and as transgender, but all of these words are inadequate. If one must ascribe Alexis with a gender, know this: Alexis was Transcended Gender. The words of the English language are lacking. As such, it is irrelevant whether you use he or she, her or him, his or hers, sister or brother, you cannot get close to the grand and wonderful spirit that we knew as Alexis Arquette. There was certainly a time when she insisted on being called a woman, (I laugh at the memory of asking her to help me take out the garbage when we were living together and her indignant response: ‘That’s a man’s job! I’m a woman!’), but those who take offense at my use of the male pronoun were quite simply not privy to the many conversations we had near the end of Alexis’ life.”

Those conversations included friends and photographs, like the ones above, which appeared in the gossip rags shortly after Arquette’s death at 47.

“My twin brother Richard and I had lunch with him in Santa Monica less than a month ago,” Robert Dupont told sleaze site Radar. Dupont said he dated the transgender activist in the 1990s.

“Alexis had changed over and was living as a man again and he asked me if I had any clothes I didn’t want that he could wear. I had only a few things I had with me as I was visiting from Palm Springs,” revealed Dupont. “I put together a box for him when I got home but I never got to send it before he passed.”

Alexis Arquette
Alexis Arquette Facebook

What does it matter whether Arquette presented as male or female in her dying days? Upon the cancellation of her E! show, I Am Cait and in the months before that, wild rumors circulated that Caitlyn Jenner would detransition, leading to off-color jokes by Bette Midler among others.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, author, scholar and trans woman who appeared with Jenner on her docu-series, offered an opinion earlier this year about why this issue resonates so strongly, in The Advocate. 

“I have known at least one person who de-transitioned for a while,  not because she wanted to, but out of a desperate move to sustain her marriage and her family. In the end, she came out again a year or so later, and right on schedule, her marriage dissolved, and she lost her job. I remember following that story on the net as well. On Facebook, reactions to her initial decision were excoriating.  Traitor, people called her.  You’ll be sorry!  As if they somehow knew the realities of her life better than she did herself.”

Boylan was referring to me. I detransitioned three months after coming out in 2013, after suffering a seizure that caused a mental break from reality. Psychiatrists diagnosed it as a form of amnesia, which was narrowed to “dissociative amnesia.” I recovered, and in time, resumed my authentic life.

“I used to worry just this,” Boylan wrote, “that a de-transitioner would make me look bad, that the narrative I’d developed — that there was no possible choice for me except to come out — was falsified by evidence of someone who, having made the same choice, then found the ability to make another.

“Or, to put it more simply, someone who comes out and then later de-transitions, makes us look like flibbertigibbets.  It suggests that transition is not a matter of life or death, but something more mercurial and capricious.

“For cisgender people, it verifies transphobia, makes them feel as if they knew better than we trans people all along.  “Oh, I knew they’d regret it!  I told them so from the beginning!”

The rate of detransition among the 1.4 million transgender Americans is miniscule, reported Vice. Of those who come out and undergo a gender transition, researchers estimated that merely 1 percent detransition.

“The numbers are so incredibly low,” said Dr. Marci Bowers, a trans woman who is also one of the world’s leading gender confirmation surgeons, told Vice. “If anything, it reinforces the validity of gender transition in the first place.”

Writers and trans advocates Brynn Tannehill, Julia Serano, and Parker Molloy have eloquently and thoroughly debunked the transphobic science that perpetuates the argument that trans is not real and can be “cured.” Behind the gossip and rumormongering is a curtain where those who would rather see transgender rights eliminated hide. Contributing to the speculation that Arquette “gave up” or “reverted” is to feed those who deny trans is real.

The best response, by far, was written by Boylan in her op-ed, labeling a CBS report that Jenner was considering detransition as not only B.S., but wrongheaded:

“I believe that if a transgender transition is no one’s business until the person going through the process comes out, then the same goes for de-transition. Even if this story were true — which it’s not, duh — to speculate on someone’s de-transition is every bit as shameful as outing anyone else in any other way.  It’s a private matter.  And — how should I put this:  It’s no one’s goddamned business.”

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