The Arquette family is thanking sister Alexis for teaching the world about acceptance for transgender people following her death Sunday morning at age 47.
Alexis, a transgender actress, passed away just after midnight surrounded by her family, including siblings Patricia, David, Rosanna and Richmond, PEOPLE has confirmed. Her cause of death was unspecified.
They remembered their sister in a statement shared with PEOPLE.
“Our sister, Alexis Arquette, passed away this morning, September 11th, 2016,” they said.
“Alexis was a brilliant artist and painter, a singer, an entertainer and an actor. She starred in movies like Last Exit to Brooklyn, Pulp Fiction, Jumpin’ at the Boneyard, Of Mice and Men, The Wedding Singer, and The Bride of Chucky. Her career was cut short, not by her passing, but by her decision to live her truth and her life as a transgender woman. Despite the fact that there are few parts for trans actors, she refused to play roles that were demeaning or stereotypical. She was a vanguard in the fight for understanding and acceptance for all trans people.
“She fiercely lived her reality in a world where it is dangerous to be a trans person – a world largely unready to accept differences among human beings, and where there is still the ugliness of violence and hostility towards people that we may not understand.
“Alexis was born as Robert, our brother. We loved him the moment he arrived. But he came in as more than a sibling – he came as our great teacher. As Alexis transitioned into being a woman, she taught us tolerance and acceptance. As she moved through her process, she became our sister, teaching us what real love is.
“We learned what real bravery is through watching her journey of living as a trans woman. We came to discover the one truth – that love is everything.
“In the days leading to her death, she told us she was already visiting the other side, and that where she was going, there was only one gender. That on the other side, we are free from all of the things that separate us in this life, and that we are all one.
She passed away surrounded by love. We held her and sang her David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ as she punched through the veil to the other side. We washed her body in rose petals and surrounded her with flowers.
“Alexis always had to do everything first. She left before we were ready to let her go. We are all heartbroken that she is no longer with us, but we are grateful for the grace and kindness we were all shown during this difficult time. We are comforted by the fact that Alexis came into our family and was our brother and then our sister, and that she gave us so much love. We will love you always, Alexis. We know we were the lucky ones.
“The family asks that in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations please be sent to organizations that support the LGBTQ community in honor of Alexis Arquette. Please respect our privacy during this time of grieving.”
The letter was signed by all four Arquette siblings.
They also shared their remembrances of Alexis on social media, with David and Patricia posting about her on Twitter.
Richmond announced the news of Alexis’ death on Facebook Sunday morning, adding, “I am feeling immense gratitude to have been afforded the luxury of sharing life with him/her, for learning from Alexis, for being given the gift of being able to love him/her and to be loved by him/her. He was a force.”