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Tributes pour in for beloved trans activist after her sudden death: ‘She was a ray of sunshine in our community’

Patrick Kelleher May 24, 2021
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Sophie Williams

Sophie Williams died suddenly in London. (SophieGwenWilliams.com)

Tributes have been pouring in for Northern Irish trans artist and activist Sophie Gwen Williams, who has died suddenly in London.

Williams’ passing was confirmed by friends and activists in Northern Ireland and London on Saturday (22 May), with those who knew and loved her sharing their heartbreak at the news.

A classically trained musician, Williams dedicated her artistic practice to composing and recording original works. She had also won acclaim as a performance artist, putting on shows in galleries and artistic spaces across the UK and Ireland.

Williams was a fiercely committed activist who worked tirelessly to better the lives of trans people. In 2020, she and her friend Jo founded We Exist, which raises vital funds to help trans people across the UK pay for healthcare costs.

Speaking to PinkNews last year, Williams said she set up the organisation because she felt it was a “necessity in the face of the rising waiting times for healthcare for all trans people in the UK and the associated costs with going private.”

Before moving to London, Williams was chair and one of the original members of The 343, a Belfast-based queer art collective. There, she founded Ireland’s first ever queer radio station (343 radio).

Sophie Williams was ‘a ray of sunshine’ in Northern Ireland’s trans community

Alexa Moore, director of TransgenderNI, told PinkNews that Williams was “a ray of sunshine in our community in Northern Ireland”.

“While she lived here, she did such amazing work and had such an impact on everyone she met, including me,” Moore said.

“She was committed to creating a better society for her communities, creating space for organising and community building wherever she went. Not only that, but she was a wonderful friend, the best of craic and never failed to bring the life of the party.

“She’ll be sorely missed.”

We Exist, the organisation Williams co-founded, posted a heartfelt tribute on Instagram as news of her death broke.

“We have lost a mentor, leader, beloved friend, sister and inspiration,” the group wrote on social media.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by We Exist (@weexistlondon)

“Her passion, talent, ferocity, commitment to justice, kindness and generosity were unbounded.

“Wherever she went, Sophie brought light to everyone around her. We, Sophie’s chosen family in London, extend our love to all those who loved and cared for her in Belfast and beyond.”

We Exist praised Williams for her tireless activism, saying she “gave her all fighting for a world in which trans people can thrive.”

‘We love you Sophie. Rest in power beautiful angel,” the group added.

The 343 will hold a vigil on Tuesday evening (25 May) at its East Belfast venue for the community to come together and remember Williams.

The group said it was “deeply saddened” by Williams’ “tragic” death

“We are taking our time to gather our thoughts and feelings about the sudden passing of our friend Sophie,” The 343 wrote on Facebook on Saturday (22 May).

 

Related topics: Trans

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