In Memoriam: Kris Treviño Irvin

Kris Treviño Irvin

We at the Exponent are devastated by the death of Kris Treviño Irvin. After an unspecified medical emergency and a short time on a ventilator, Kris passed on Sunday, January 23, 2022, at the age of 35. They are survived by their son, Toby, and many other family members and loved ones. Read their beautiful obituary here.

Kris was a friend to so many in this community and, as the Cougar Pride Center phrased it, a queer icon. Through their advocacy, humor, and love, they were a source of goodness, both in-person and on social media. The Exponent was honored to host their guest post in 2018, “A Letter to President Oaks.” Courtney Tanner at the Salt Lake Tribune wrote a lovely article about Kris’s impact on the LDS LGBTQ+ community.

Kris’s funeral will be held on Monday, January 31 at 9:30 am MST. UPDATE: the link to the live stream is at the end of their obituary and a recording is expected to be available for 90 days after the service. Following the funeral, there will be a short graveside service in Ogden at 11 am. It will not be streamed, but people are welcome to attend the graveside service held at Lindquists’s Memorial Gardens of the Wasatch, 1718 Combe Road, South Ogden, UT 84403.

Update 2: A memorial will be held for Kris on Saturday, February 12, from 4-7 PM at the Clarke Building at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah and is open to anyone who loved Kris. There will also be a live stream of the event, and you can register to watch here: https://fb.me/e/e6wdyUy2n Register to attend the memorial in-person here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/posscon-tickets-267136541587

 Kris Irvin with Blaire Ostler, Peter Moosman, and Katherine Herrmann, holding sings offering hugs outside of General Conference in April of 2019.

From Nancy Ross:

I followed Kris on twitter for years and they posted updates on their life, photos, memes, and funny things continually. Kris was always extended gracious invitations to engage with and learn about LGBT+ folks, especially the trans and nonbinary communities, and was a source of loving queer support for so many queer Mormons and former Mormons. I miss their constant gentle reminder that the heart of the gospel, even in turbulent times, is love. 

 

On behalf of Mormons Building Bridges, where Kris was an administrator:

Kris’s Eyes

That’s what I think of first. And then possums and jokes and Jedis. But first, their eyes. 

Gentle, they would tear up while holding a friend in need. 

Fierce, they would spark while defending a child. 

Wise, they would wait patiently for others to catch up. 

Kris’s eyes, and all the gentle, fierce wisdom they guided me with, will be my focus and my meditation as I learn to keep Kris close while letting them leave. 

From Abby Hansen:  Kris on their way to church, dressed in masculine clothes and attending Relief Society – trying to find a place to fit in. We have to do better, in all areas of our lives (especially in our religion) to find a seat at the table for everyone.

From Violadiva:

In their too-short life, Kris faced rejection from many different people and community spaces while also being loved and included in others. In spite of the cruelty and rejection they regularly faced, Kris kept an open heart to receive the love from those who adored them. When shown love, acceptance and appreciation, Kris’s generous heart bloomed, and they reciprocated with kindness and love in return. One of the things I admire most about Kris was their ability to be open to those who loved them and not shut themselves down to all love and generosity just because of the bad actions of a few jerks who treated them poorly.

Kris always had love to give, and asked nothing more than our love in return. I will always remember with tenderness the times Kris asked for and accepted my blessings. They had a quick wit and ready compassion, a charming sense of humor and excellent pop culture references. Our last few communications were about knitting and the awkwardness of using double point needles. I will miss them now that they are gone, and will always think of them as I round the crown of a knitted beanie hat.

 

From Risa:

I never met Kris IRL, but got to know them through social media, and was always aware of their impact on their community, especially the LGBTQ+ community in Utah County. I remember the bravery Kris faced with living their truth and reconciling that with their faith in the Gospel and the Church. Kris was so courageous to get a mastectomy in the face of bullying and opposition from their ecclesiastical leaders. They were a light and an example to others aching to express their gender identity. More than that, Kris gave so much love and comfort to those in need. They always had a kind word or deed at the ready for anyone who needed it. They were funny! They exuded laughter and sunshine. Their inherent goodness shined so bright it lit up social media and all who knew them personally. My love is with all those who were impacted by Kris’s life, and especially their dearest Toby. God be with you ’til we meet again, Kris.

Kris and their son Toby before a Pride Parade

From Jody England Hansen:

It is hard to believe they are gone.

It is hard to remember exactly where I first met Kris in person. We had interacted in several online groups, involved in advocacy.

And then I got to meet them in person. Their love, and generosity, and joyful passion for life, their own as well as all others, was so tangible.

It might have been an Affirmation gathering or conference, or an event at Encircle House, Mormons Building Bridges marching in the Pride Parade, holding their “Hug a Transgender Mormon” sign in front of the Conference Center, or Provo Pride Festival when we appreciated raising awareness of God’s love for everyone while in the shadow of the Provo City Center Temple, gathering for rallies at the State Capitol – there were many opportunities to show up and support LGBTQ+ issues and advocacy. Once I had been blessed to meet Kris in person, it seemed as though each gathering was another chance to build on that blessing.

One Sunday, I was able to see how limitless their compassion and advocacy was. It was after the horrible mass shooting at a mosque far away. So many died because someone could not handle the existence of anyone they did not agree with. Many of us wanted to do something affirming in the face of such hate. We invited all who would to gather at a mosque in Salt Lake, and be present in solidarity with those in the Muslim community who were reeling from loss and hurt. I made a sign that said “The God in me sees the God in you”, and we went to stand with others outside the mosque, hoping to surround the worshippers with love and hope. It was moving to see the entire area around the building full of supporters, quietly standing and holding messages of support. At one point, several people were invited to share some thoughts, and that is when I saw Kris step to the microphone and share their love, and concern, and faith, and wisdom. It did not surprise me that Kris would be there for those who had a different belief and views, but who shared a very human experience that Kris deeply understood. Kris was there to do what their deep love led them to do.

Kris was such a profound, loving and powerful presence in the world. We are poorer for the loss of them. I hope we will turn to their words, and writings, and memories of them, and continue to be inspired by the blessing of Kris’ life.

1) Kris holding a possum 2) Kris dressed as a Jedi Knight

From Katie Rich:

My heart goes out to Toby and all of Kris’s loved ones at this tender time. There is so much that I loved and appreciated about Kris, but one thing that stands out to me is how open they were about the things they were into—possums, Star Wars, Lilo & Stitch, Disney, cats, and more. They openly loved who and what they loved, and despite immense opposition, they never stopped trying to be more of who they were. They advocated for the LDS LGBTQIA community, but also for all people who are oppressed and marginalized. They were the best of us and I will miss them immensely.  

 

From EmilyCC:

Kris had the unique ability to help someone feel loved through Facebook. They were a valuable support, as we messaged and talked about the dark days of depression and the courage to try another treatment. I am so grateful that they were in my life, and I mourn and feel angry that they are gone.

The love and pride they had for Toby, the care and concern they showed members of our Exponent II Facebook group, and the joy they shared with pictures of kitties and/or possums or Star Wars memes or just anything they found delight in was palpable. Did so many of us not get to meet Kris IRL? It’s true, but the connection so many of us feel to them is real and beautiful and one that I will treasure.

Kris will always be a bright light, not in spite of the darkness of the world, but because they knew it so well and still found ways to share love and compassion.

 

From Abby Hansen                                                                  

I originally met Kris twice before they remembered that we’d already met. That was fine by me, because I wasn’t nearly as cool or memorable as they were. The first time I went to the Pride Festival in Salt Lake City I met Kris on summer break from their classes at BYU, with a short spiky haircut dyed bright blue. They told me they could only be wild and dye their hair when BYU wasn’t in session. 

I met them again at another Pride Festival and said, “Hey, I remember talking to you last year!”

Then another year passed and there was an article in the newspaper about Pride flags being stolen in Provo. I made a comment on a thread filled with hateful homophobic and transphobic remarks. I mentioned in it that I was going to Provo Pride the next day and Kris told me how much they liked my comment and hoped to meet me at Pride the next day. I wrote back and said, “Ha! I’ve actually met you twice already!” The next day at Pride I was there too early to see Kris at their booth, but as I got in my car to drive home I thought about giving their booth another shot. I parked illegally with my tired kids in the car (I couldn’t convince them to walk back across the festival with me) and sprinted back inside to the Genderbands booth where Kris had just arrived for their shift minutes before. I said, “Hello, do you remember me yet? Let’s take a picture together to commemorate you finally remembering me!” Then I ran back to my illegally parked car with whining kids inside, thinking how bad I wanted to be friends with Kris. I loved everything about them. I was a Kris fan from moment one. (I am not alone in this. They were a hero to basically everyone. If I am even half as popular when I die, I’ll know I was incredibly loved.)

Fom Abby Hansen: Kris’ blue haircut that made me pick them out of the crowd the first time we met. (I think I approached them in the middle of Washington Square and said, “Your hair is cool!”, making me a Kris stalker from Day One.)

After that, we finally became real friends. We met for lunch and they told me about growing up trans and asexual, getting married and the traumatic birth of their only son.  I looked at Kris and thought, “This person is one of my favorite people I have ever met. I don’t even deserve their friendship but they’re so nice to me anyway!” Who was I? I was straight, privileged, and fit gender norms. I liked makeup and dresses and being called “pretty”. Kris wasn’t like me in that way, but they were like me in every way that made them one of my favorite friends. They understood what it was like to be pregnant and have a baby, but they also had masculine traits that I admired and loved. They were the first trans/non-binary person to let me know them so well, and everything inside was the perfect human I wanted to be like. 

Kris was very well known in the local LGBTQIA/LDS community, and they spoke out to educate others and shared their experiences so openly. They were a gifted writer with impeccable sense of humor, and they emanated love and compassion at every turn. 

And this sounds silly, but Kris was so involved with helping so many people in the LGBTQIA community that I felt super lucky they’d have time to be my friend when I was just a boring straight cisgender person. Like, who am I to be cool enough to be their friend when they are literally one of the most popular and loved queer people around?

From Abby Hansen: Other than they were queer and I’m not, Kris felt more like me than almost anyone I’ve ever met – as proof, how many of YOU have pictures of your younger selves just chilling with a cat draped across your shoulders during dinner prep or scripture study? Kris was my favorite. I will miss them forever and I will do everything I can to keep their words alive.

Yet we had so much in common. We loved cats, and we even adopted sibling cats a couple years ago. Their sense of humor felt so much like my own, we loved reading and writing, we were both Mormon stay at home moms (though they were trans, and I wasn’t), we’d had laser eye surgeries, loved girl scout cookies, loved Pride Festivals, and loved my dog Macho. We went and watched Cats together the last day before it left theaters and made friends with another pair of friends there doing the same thing as us (and we talked and yelled out about the parts that were crazy to each other). We made plans to see another movie together shortly after (it was Little Women), but the pandemic hit hard within a few weeks and with all of Kris’ chronic illness they quarantined and we postponed our lunches and movie dates for the foreseeable future. We thought it would pass in a few weeks and we’d hang out again. (Damn it, covid!)

From Abby Hansen: The day that we went to Cats together, with the only two other people in the theater with us.

I’d heard the analogy of transgender people being like the sunsets and sunrises of humanity – while most of the time it’s either day (which can be beautiful) or night (which is also beautiful), the most breathtaking moments are during the in-between when it’s some of each. Kris was the most beautiful sunrise, one that is gone, but that thankfully we took a lot of pictures of to remember them by. 

I don’t know how to explain Kris to people who won’t ever get a chance to meet them. They were just truly one of the best human beings to ever walk this earth. We are all better off for them having been here, and we are all going to feel the giant hole they’re leaving behind for a very long time. I’m so grateful for the few years that I got to be their friend, and I will see them in every LGBTQIA youth who’s trying to figure themselves out. Their influence sent ripples out that will be felt long after the rest of us are gone, too.

Rest in Peace, Kris. You will always be my hero.

Abby’s 2019 post, “Our Church Needs More Transgender Members,” includes a tribute to Kris.

Katie Ludlow Rich

Katie Ludlow Rich is a writer and independent scholar focused on 19th and 20th-century Mormon women's history.

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4 Responses

  1. EmilyB says:

    Thank you for this touching tribute. The world has lost a mighty and wonderful person.

  2. Nicole says:

    I cannot begin to explain how heartbreaking the loss of Kris Treviño Irvin is. Their death is such a powerful tragedy that even someone like me who never knew them personally can feel the shockwaves. I often saw Kris engaging and advocating for marginalized people – not only the queer Mormon community they were an integral part of but for Muslims and others they were not – in shared online spaces. I felt so inspired by their words, their courage, and their commitment in the face of adversity and hatred from so many sides. I thought of their example the first time I told a Church leader in a Sunday meeting that I am an active, believing, faithful member who strongly supports same-sex marriage and full acceptance for queer members. I remember how my voice and body quivered with fear, how resistant that leader was to my comment, and how good it felt when multiple members approached me later to say they agreed and were relieved I said something. I wish I had messaged Kris and told them how empowered they made me feel, but I never did.

    Now that they are gone, I have been moved by the tributes of those who knew Kris personally, including this post. It sounds like Kris was just as amazing of a friend as they were as an activist. I hope in our collective grief we can also celebrate and seek to emulate those Christlike qualities Kris had that made such a difference in the lives of so many.

  3. Ramona Morris says:

    While I’m not quite certain if I’ve ever met Kris, I do remember during my visit to Utah that I saw the group in Temple Square holding up their signs. I remember how members walked past them with only a few stopping to hug each person. My friends and I took each a moment to hug each of them. I felt so much warmness and joy in that small moment especially after some of the things I had already endured visiting the Midwest. While my memories are fuzzy of that day I hope Kris knows how amazing they were in the world.

  4. Darren says:

    Kris was a dear friend. We never met in real life (like 90% of their friends, probably), but we talked on the phone a few times and of course, we tweeted. We were going to have breakfast the next time I was in Utah…and I guess the lesson is go to breakfast now. The possums are weeping today.

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