A Butterfly for Her Mads (Parent)

I was so taken by this image that I just started ‘friending’ everyone who Facebook was suggesting who had this image on their profile. It is a beautiful image and on the day after Transgender Day of Visibility, I assumed that it was created by some transgender artist for the day.

Soon, someone in Australia reached out and told me the heart-breaking story of this butterfly. It was created by Ravyn, the daughter of Kiera Kristine DeSantis who as of yesterday is not expected to recover from complications related to gender-affirming surgery.

In the “Inevitability of Transition,” Kiera shares a little bit about her journey through alcohol, despair, thrash/death metal music, and suicidality before she decided to pursue gender transition later in life.

Because of the assault by the current U.S. administration on health care in general and trans-affirming health care specifically, Kiera felt she had a short timeline for what seemed a once in a lifetime opportunity for gender-affirming surgeries. She scheduled three surgeries in two days with Dr Sherman Leis in Philadelphia, knowing that it would put her at risk of infection or other complications.

Kiera had just this past November proposed to her beloved, Sara Grace, on U.S. Thanksgiving. She had asked Sarah’s mother’s permission “old school” and Kiera’s daughter Ravyn recorded the moment.

Unfortunately, complications had removed all hope of recovery for Kiera by March 31, 2019, the Transgender Day of Visibility. While it won’t be considered legally binding due to the medical situation, Sarah Grace and Kiera were wed bedside and TDOV will be their anniversary forevermore. There is a fundraising site to help Sarah Grace pay for final expenses including hospital bills and time off from work.


Kiera’s final Facebook cover image was a butterfly. Her daughter Ravyn created the “i will not be silent” butterfly image in honor of her mother, Kiera.

The striking image has been taken up by so many who were touched by Kiera’s life. It speaks of the lives compromised by the assault on health care in the U.S. It speaks of the way one person’s struggles and decision to choose life can strengthen a community of folx who reach as far as Australia. It speaks of the love of chosen family. But most of all, it speaks to the love of a daughter for her transgender parent (who she called “Mads”).

It is my privilege to simply bear witness to all of these gifts. May Kiera’s memory be a blessing to all of us.

Chris Paige
April 1, 2019

Updates to this story are likely…

Sarah Grace (Kiera’s wife): The Source of My Strength

April 2:Keira Kristine passed away today at 3:00. She is now in the process of organ donation and savings the lives of others. I can’t think of anything more like her than to sacrifice herself for those in need.” Sara Grace

April 3: Vigil for Kiera (Livestream in discussion links) at Community United Church

April 3: “They were able to use her organs to save three lives. Her heart went to one recipient, a kidney to another, and the other kidney and her liver to a third. She would be very happy to have impacted even more lives.” Sara Grace

i will not be silent.jpg
ArticleChris Paige