Our Deepest Sympathies Over Alexis

Julia Miglets

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On Sunday, 11 September, Alexis Arquette, a beloved actress and transgender activist, passed away at the age of 47. Arquette was the sister of two-time WITI Summit speaker, Patricia Arquette.

Alexis Arquette was born Robert Arquette on 28 July 1969 in Los Angeles, California. She began her acting career at the age of 12 in the music video for "She's a Beauty" by The Tubes. In 1986 she found her first movie role as the uncredited androgynous friend to a main character in Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Arquette's films developed a pattern that paralleled her sexual identity, such as her big break in Last Exit to Brooklyn and her performance in Killer Drag Queens on Dope. In a statement made by her siblings on the morning of her passing, it was made clear that her history with gender-focused roles did not, in any way, cause her beliefs to be watered down: "...she refused to play roles that were demeaning or stereotypical."

Arquette decided to make her transition from male to female when she was in her late 30s. Her transition was documented in the 2007 film Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother. The film chronicled a year of her life, during which she prepared for gender reassignment surgery. Many of her supportive family members were featured in the film, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.

With her compassionate soul and tenacious spirit, Arquette took her challenges as a transgender woman and used them for the greater good. On a Larry King Live interview in 2009, Arquette spoke with conviction on her stance: "It's very important to me that people accept me as a transgender female. It's ridiculous to a lot of people, and I understand that. But men and women are very, very similar. I think the closer we can get to one another, the more we'll understand these issues." In an interview with the Los Angeles Times the previous year, Patricia Arquette opened up about her sister's confidence in her sexuality: in school, Alexis would always line up with the rest of the girls instead of the boys, and would dress like a woman at as young as 4 years old. Alexis's brother, David, commemorated her life with a Tweet on the afternoon of her passing, calling her "my hero for eternity."

Beyond Arquette's success as an actress, beyond her prominence as an activist, perhaps her greatest legacy of all was the role she played among her family and friends. In the statement that her siblings released the morning of her death, they express with great tenderness what she meant to them: "[Alexis] taught us tolerance and acceptance. As she moved through her process, she became our sister, teaching us what real love is...she gave us so much love. We will always love you, Alexis. We know we were the lucky ones."