RIP: Sonia Burgess

After the UK press made an absolute mockery of a transgender person’s death, The Guardian publishes a eulogy to the person who was known first as David Burgess and who had previously been known as Sonia for some of the time, and who had only recently become Sonia Burgess all of the time.

“Sonia’s defining characteristic was her kindness,” says Tara. “It shone out of her. She had time for everybody and an absolute absence of snobbery and condescension. Sonia would interact equally comfortably and fluently with everyone without changing gear. I was devastated when Sonia died. I didn’t sleep for days. The sheer suddenness and finality of it was what was so awful. I miss her terribly.”

On 17 November, a funeral service for Sonia Burgess was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields, an impressive, grey-stone, porticoed church that overlooks Trafalgar Square. The church was filled with around 600 people from diverse backgrounds – lawyers, university contemporaries, former asylum seekers, members of the transgender community and countless others who, in some way, had had their lives touched by the person they knew as either David or Sonia. His three children stood up to deliver a eulogy about the father they had known, slipping easily between female and male pronouns as they talked. It was, everyone agreed, a moving tribute to an exceptional person.

I am, as others will be, uncomfortable with referring to Sonia as David and with “he” pronouns, but since Sonia did have a significant public life as David – as a well-known and accomplished immigration lawyer – I can understand The Guardian’s decision so that those who didn’t know her could read about the remarkable person she was.

Sonia, thank you for the beauty and grace you brought to being publicly transgender. Love and condolences to the communities that are mourning her personally. Feel free to leave comments or memories.

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