Alexis Arquette was undoubtedly one of the first transgender activists in Hollywood.
Coming from a family of actors, Alexis was accepted when she came out. Her sister Patricia was concerned about the impact her sister’s revelation would have on her career — though Alexis was not.
“Alexis was really also very powerful, and strong, and really brave, very brave,” Patricia told PEOPLE while at the Let’s Toast the Extraordinary Achievements of Alexis Arquette pre-GLAAD Media Awards dinner sponsored by Ketel One in Hollywood.
“We had a long conversation when Alexis told me that she was transgender, and I said, ‘Okay. So what do you do about Hollywood? How will you get work? People are not progressive in Hollywood and it could really negatively impact your career. Are you thinking everything through?’ ” the Academy Award Winner recalled.
Patricia affirms that despite the obvious risks, Alexis was confident in her decision to come out in Hollywood.
“Alexis was very brave to make that decision,” her sister continued. “She really wanted to help progress the world and move the world forward.”
Alexis died last September at age 47, but childhood memories of Alexis are still vivid for Patricia.
“Alexis and [our brother] David both had these beds that sort of look like space pods. They were like these tubes that you could get in,” the 48-year-old recalled. “My mom was making Alexis’ bed and realized that a big chunk of the [foam] mattress was missing out of the corner. She said, ‘Alexis what happened to your mattress?’ Alexis said, ‘I need the foam to make a puppet.’ So she pulled out this puppet with this little sparkly dress on it and my mom said, ‘Oh, my god, it’s gorgeous. My kids are so creative.’ “
Patricia was joined at the event by brothers David and Richmond along with her boyfriend Eric White. Not only were they there to remember their sister, but also to honor the many lives that she touched.
“We’ve gotten so many letters. I’ve had letters from people all over the world who said their first experience of a trans person was with Alexis,” Patricia shared in awe of her late sister. “Watching Alexis in Last Exit to Brooklyn — which was Alexis’ first movie — she played a trans person in the 1950s which was considered really a crossdresser at that time. That’s what people called trans people then.”
Patricia also noted ,”Alexis was incredibly creative our whole lives. I grew up with Alexis putting on makeup, trying on high heels …. Alexis was my best friend when we grew up, so I wouldn’t change one thing about Alexis.”