On Sunday night, actress Patricia Arquette used her Emmy acceptance speech to advocate for transgender identity and acceptance, specifically mentioning her brother, Robert (also called Alexis) Arquette. Her brother identified as a transgender woman for years, but before he died, he appears to have rejected the transgender label and presented himself as a man once again on and off. Patricia Arquette ignored this fact, referring to Alexis as her “sister” and insisting that she will not stop mourning until transgender identity is fully normalized and “trans people are not persecuted.”
“I just have to say I’m grateful to be working, I’m grateful at 50 to be getting the best parts of my life,” Arquette, who won the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress for her role in The Act, said. “But in my heart, I’m so sad I lost my sister Alexis, and trans people are still being persecuted.”
“And I’m in mourning every day of my life, Alexis, and I will be the rest of my life for you until we change the world so that trans people are not persecuted. And give them jobs. They’re human beings, let’s give them jobs. Let’s get rid of this bias that we have everywhere,” Arquette concluded.
"I'm in mourning every day of my life." #TheAct's Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) talks about the passing of her sister Alexis Arquette and the persecution of trans people during her acceptance speech for lead actress in a limited series https://t.co/WmT1Fmyol4 #Emmys pic.twitter.com/E1iMULV5QV
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) September 23, 2019
Arquette referred to her brother as her “sister” and used his memory to push transgender identity, even though he appears to have rejected it, or at least had some gender confusion before he died.
As The Hollywood Reporter‘s Seth Abramovitch reported, Alexis Arquette began presenting himself as a man again in 2013. Arquette previously identified as transgender and performed as a drag queen. Yet he told Sham Ibrahim, a fellow drag performer, that “‘gender is bullsh*t.’ That ‘putting on a dress doesn’t biologically change anything. Nor does a sex-change.'” It seems Alexis Arquette did not change his name, but he did reject transgender identity.
Ironically, even Ibrahim continued to refer to Alexis Arquette using the pronoun “she.” Arquette also told Ibrahim that “sex-reassignment is physically impossible. All you can do is adopt these superficial characteristics but the biology will never change.”
Alexis Arquette struggled financially and physically toward the end of his life. Ibrahim suggested that the strain led him to stop identifying as a woman.
“She was very attractive, very beautiful. Men loved her, women loved her. She had many lovers — like, harems of lovers. Even movie stars would be into her — straight, heterosexual guys — because of her androgynous look,” he says. “But she could never find the right man to love her. And I think that as her health was deteriorating, [presenting as a woman] was too much of a struggle to even think about. Being able to get up and put that dress on and the wig — it was too much for her.”
Ibrahim’s rationalization aside, it seems the height of hypocrisy to continue to refer to Alexis Arquette as a woman after he identified himself as a man once again. Transgender activists insist that if a biological man identifies as a woman, people must use female pronouns to refer to him, regardless of biology. But what happens when that biological man again identifies as a man? From this situation, it seems the transgender activists consider the transgender identity to be the “true” identity, even if someone grows to reject it and even though it conflicts with the person’s biological sex.
While Patricia Arquette still referred to her brother as her “sister,” their brother Richmond acknowledged Alexis’s apparent de-transition.
“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,” Richmond Arquette posted on Facebook in 2016. “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.”
David Arquette, another sibling, said Alexis called himself “gender suspicious,” explicitly declaring, “I’m not transgender anymore.” Yet David explained that his brother still had some gender confusion. “She was like, ‘Yeah, sometimes I’ll be a man, sometimes I’ll be a woman. I like to refer to myself as gender suspicious,'” David Arquette said of his “wild” sibling.
This continued gender confusion only illustrates the lack of solid ground when it comes to gender identity. If society rejects the clear binary of biological sex in favor of professed gender identity, pronouns can change with mood swings. Alexis Arquette may have identified as female for a time, but he was always a man, and it seems he eventually realized that no amount of transgender surgery could make him a woman.
Patricia Arquette chose to use Alexis Arquette as an example of transgender identity, even though he later rejected that label and articulated the reason why transgender identity is a kind of cultural quicksand.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.