By: Pen Fang
Eden Knight, a 23-year-old trans woman, died by suicide after being forced to detransition. In a suicide note posted to her Twitter on March 12, 2023, she revealed that her parents had hired a series of people to manipulate her to detransition and move back to Saudi Arabia.
Knight came out during the COVID-19 pandemic and was highly active on social media, amassing around 20,000 followers.
“She has been a light in the trans community,” her friends wrote. “Everyone who speaks about her mentions her humour and her kindness. She possessed an inner strength that we admire and know deserves recognition.”
Knight’s note describes how she was initially contacted by Michael Pocalyko, a “fixer” who claimed to want to fix her relationship with her parents and help her “possibly even achieve immigration status” according to her former roommate Bailee Daws. According to Daws, Knight was on an international scholarship that ran out before she could graduate, which caused her visa to expire. This threw the possibility of deportation onto the table. Daws further elaborated that, while Eden had asked for her to be involved, Pocalyko and his associate Ellen Cole refused.
After some time and calls with Pocalyko and another associate, Ellen Cole, Knight was convinced by the two to move to Virginia, where she met Saudi lawyer Bader.
Bader then “pampered” her by getting her a temporary apartment, taking her out to eat, and more — effectively making Knight reliant on him for food and shelter — all while trying to convince her to detransition.
Fearing deportation and unable to find an escape, Knight said she “subconsciously gave up,” stopping her estrogen treatment and essentially detransitioning before going back to Saudi Arabia, where her family revealed Pocalyko, Cole, and Bader had all been hired to manipulate her to come back to Saudi. Her parents regularly searched her belongings and verbally insulted her for being transgender. While she tried to remain on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), her family found her HRT drugs twice.
“I wanted to be a leader for people like me, but that wasn’t written to happen,” Knight wrote in her note. “I hope that the world gets better for us. I hope our people get old. I hope we get to see our kids grow up to fight for us. I hope for trans rights world wide.”
Knight’s family announced her passing on March 13, 2023, in a post deadnaming her.
Knight’s story shows the struggles and pain many transgender people face and the very real threat transphobia poses. In America alone, the transgender community has been continuously attacked. Daily Wire host Michael Knowles called for the “eradicat[ion] of transgenderism”. States are proposing anti-transgender legislature, including bills denying transgender youth access to care and requiring school districts to notify parents after learning a student identifies as a gender differing from official records or birth certificates. In fact, more than 330 bills have been introduced in state legislatures targeting LGBT+ rights in just 2023, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. And often, charged language that permeates these discussions, such as accusing the transgender and LGBT+ communities of “indoctrination.”
“The one string that runs through it all is that these people think that transgender individuals are wrong to be who they are,” wrote transgender activist Erin Reed in an article about Knight. “This is what activism against anti-trans legislation is for. This is what immigration activism for trans asylum seekers is for.”
Reed calls for asylum status to be granted to transgender refugees in the U.S. who face death if they are deported — something that could have prevented Knight’s death, if in place — as well as the protection of transgender people in the U.S. from legislation that would do what Knight’s family did to her.
“The only way we will ever see that is if we call for full accountability of those who seek to harm us,” Reed continues, “and a future where we take action to protect transgender both within our borders and worldwide.”
Transphobia kills. Eden Knight deserves justice.