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They loved Lucie 

At the center of a tabloid-style news story was a daughter and friend.

click to enlarge LUCIE: Karen Thompson (center) surrounded by photos of her child.
  • LUCIE: Karen Thompson (center) surrounded by photos of her child.

There are some things we need to get out of the way, up front.

First: When she died on July 11, Lucie Hamilton was a woman, but not in the biological sense. ?A little over twenty years ago, she was born as a little boy named David. At age 10 or 11, David came out to his mother as gay. Sometime between junior and senior high school, he told her that he believed he was transgender — essentially a girl trapped in a boy's skin — and that he wanted to live his life someday as a woman.

In talking with Lucie's mother and friends, there is an odd moment when their pronouns flip; when they stop talking about “him” and start talking about “her.” Even for them, it can get a bit tangled. For a straight person with no transgender friends, hearing them talk like that — trying to wrap your mind around the idea that gender might be more than XX or XY — can make you feel like your brain has done a slow and deliberate barrel roll inside your skull.

Along with Lucie's life as a transgender woman, the papers and television shows that have picked up on the story of her death — most of them on the East Coast — have also focused on the way she died: a thousand miles from home, during a Vodou ritual in a suburban New Jersey townhouse (“Vodou” is the Haitian-specific cousin of the more commonly known “Voodoo,” which is primarily practiced in New Orleans). While police in New Jersey have so far been tight lipped on details of her death, the one thing that is known for sure is that during a weekend of ritual baptism and ceremony, Lucie Hamilton — for whatever reason — laid down to sleep and never woke up.

As many of her friends have pointed out: The words “transgender” or “Voodoo” alone would have been enough to get reporters sniffing around. As it stands, Lucie's death was a sensationalist's double whammy. Before her body even made it back to Little Rock, Geraldo Rivera's people were calling Lucie's friends, looking for an interview.

In speaking with those friends, however, the thing that comes up over and over again is not Lucie's gender or her interest in Vodou or even her death. What comes up is how much has been lost without her. The gay and lesbian community in Little Rock is a little town within a city, and the transgender community is still tinier. And it is clear that a fierce light in that sky has gone out.

 

David Hamilton was born on September 30, 1988, the only child of Karen Thompson. His father was out of the picture early, Karen said, only visiting to see the boy two or three times in his life before moving to Mexico and falling off the radar. From the time he was a toddler, Thompson said, she could tell there was something different about David. Though he was fascinated by animals, he never wanted anything to do with what most little boys like to play with — trucks and cars and plastic army men.

“We always had girl toys,” Thompson said. “We also had farm toys because there was the whole animal aspect of that, but it was always things like My Little Pony and the dolls and the clothes. That was from two or three.” Thompson suspected David might be gay long before he came to her in middle school and told her he thought he might be; long before he could have ever made a conscious choice one way or the other.

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