A young transgender woman from Saudi Arabia is feared dead after she posted a suicide note accusing her family of forcing her to detransition.
Eden Knight, 23, who had been living in the US until late last year, said in a Twitter post on Monday morning that she had killed herself after being pressured into returning to Saudi Arabia and then denied access to her hormone medication.
The post, apparently scheduled in advance, alleged that her parents had hired American “fixers” and a Saudi lawyer in Washington DC to bring her back to the authoritarian kingdom, where trans people face severe discrimination.
A separate tweet on Tuesday by an account apparently belonging to Ms Knight’s family announced that a “young man” with the same legal name as Ms Knight had died, giving details for the funeral.
Friends told The Independent on Monday evening that Ms Knight had not been seen online for a day and a half, which was highly unusual for her.
“I don’t have a doubt in my mind that she’s dead,” said Bailee Daws, 27, a close friend of Ms Knight’s who hosted her for five months last year at her home in Georgia, and is now part of a group of friends collating evidence about her fate. “It’s horrible to say, but it’s not speculative at this point.”
Another friend, 28-year-old Merrick DeVille, said: “Nobody has heard from her. It’s been almost 36 hours now, and nobody has heard anything from her.” Previously, she had been regularly active active in group chats on Twitter and Discord, even after leaving the US.
Ms Daws described Ms Knight as a bright and cherished presence in her life who would dote on her three-year-old son, yet who also struggled with deep depression and anxiety.
“That girl was a light, Ms Daws said. “I would give anything to bring her back. Honestly, I really would. Because I loved her – we all did.”
Ms Knight’s partner, known on Twitter as Parker, wrote: “Rest in peace, Eden. I will carry you on my shoulders for the rest of my life. Your life will carry meaning. You touched the lives of so many people. I am forever grateful to have gotten to know you.”
Erin Reed, a US trans activist and journalist who helped draw attention to the case, called for the US government to grant asylum “liberally” to trans people from countries where they would face harm.
According to Ms Knight’s LinkedIn page, she attended an American high school in the suburbs of Washington DC and then an international school in Riyadh, before studying computer science at George Mason University.
Ms Daws said that she believed Ms Knight was on an international scholarship that ran out before she could graduate, causing her visa to expire. Because of her identity, she was “extremely terrified” of being deported back to Saudi Arabia and was hoping to claim asylum in the US.
In summer 2022, shortly after moving to Georgia, Ms Knight began hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to feminise her body, which Ms Daws said “absolutely” improved her mental health. She had become highly active in LGBT+ and left-wing circles on American social media, gaining many friends and around 13,000 Twitter followers at the time of her disappearance.
But around August, Ms Knight was allegedly contacted by two Americans who offered to resolve her disagreements with her parents, whom she described in her post as “strict conservative Muslims”.
The fixers introduced her to a Saudi lawyer, Ms Knight said, who got her an apartment in DC and “pampered” her, making her dependent on him for food and shelter while pressuring her to stop HRT and live as a man.
Fearful that she would be reported to US immigration authorities, Ms Knight said that she “gave up”, complying with her parents’ demand to “repent” before boarding a flight back to the kingdom.
“I did everything he asked. I cut my hair, I stopped taking estrogen, I changed my wardrobe, I met my dad. And then I had another breakdown. My mom kept telling me to repent or I was going to hell, and I did… I repented, and I was broken,” Ms Knight wrote.
Back in Saudi Arabia, her parents regularly searched her belongings and electronic devices while calling her a “failure” and an “abomination”, Ms Knight said. She tried to stay on HRT by hiding her drugs, but was found out twice.
“I wanted to be a leader for people like me, but that wasn’t written to happen,” Ms Knight said. “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 worldwide.”
On Tuesday, a funeral message was posted on Twitter, Instagram, and Telegram by accounts appearing to belong to a Saudi Arabian family that shares Ms Knight’s legal surname.
“Go to the mercy of God Almighty, young man,” said the message, giving a name that matches Ms Knight’s unwanted legal name (known in the trans community as a deadname).
That deadname contained a set of patronymics that match the name of a Saudi finance official, whose LinkedIn page shows that he was working on Washington DC during the time that Ms Knight attended high school there.
Ms Daws identified this official as Ms Knight’s father, based on conversations where Ms Knight pulled up photos of him online to show Ms Daws who her family was.
“That is him. That is her father,” Ms Daws said. “I recognised him by his picture and his name. She showed me both of those things while she was there.”
The family did not respond to a request for comment.
If you are having thoughts about killing yourself, know that you aren’t alone. In the US, you can call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline on 988, or Trans Lifeline on 877-565-8860 if you are trans or gender non-conforming. In the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 116123 or the Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline on 0800 0119 100.
This article was updated at 1:50pm Pacific Time on Tuesday 14 March 2023 to include new information.