eden knight
Eden Knight (Twitter)

A Young Saudi Trans Woman Is Believed Dead After Being Lured From the US and Forced to Detransition

Eden Knight's friends describe her as 'smart' and 'hilarious.' She is believed dead at 23 after, friends and a note she left say, a mysterious lawyer convinced her to return to her family in Saudi Arabia.

On March 12, Eden Knight, a 23-year-old trans woman, posted a note to social media detailing her intention to die by suicide after her parents repeatedly confiscated her hormone therapy treatment.

Her note went on to describe a lack of family support, uncertain legal status, and third-party manipulation that ultimately forced her to detransition and leave the U.S. for her family home in Saudi Arabia, a country known for its violent hostility towards LGBTQ people. 


“I hope that the world gets better for us,” Eden wrote. “I hope our people get old. I hope we get to see our kids grow up to fight for us. I hope for trans rights worldwide.”

Not long after the note was published, posts from her family’s accounts on Twitter and Telegram stated that she had died. VICE News spoke with four of her friends to learn who Eden was and reviewed past messages between Eden and her friends to piece together what happened to her.  

Eden’s story highlights the dire consequences associated with forcing a trans person to detransition, and the institutional failures that made it difficult for her to consistently access life-saving healthcare and a safe place to live. Her note, which is supported by the recollections of friends as well as private messages she sent, also described the involvement of private investigators who contract for the U.S. government in an effort to get her to return to her family. 

“We have seen these reports and are studying these allegations,” a spokesperson for the State Department said in a statement. 

“We want our trans kids to grow up into trans adults. We want our trans young people to be able to live fully,” transgender activist and researcher Erin Reed told VICE News. “If her life could mean anything, I hope it brings attention to what the consequences are of forcing somebody to detransition and what the consequences are of withholding somebody from being able to express themselves.” 


Eden was living in the U.S. while in college, and came out as trans during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a public Word document summarizing Eden’s story that was assembled by her friends. Multiple friends told VICE News that she was well-read, “so fucking smart,” and hilarious. They said she wanted to be a leader and an advocate for trans people, and to support trans people in Saudi Arabia specifically. She was also a big fan of rapper Bladee and would want that included, her friend Zoe said. (As with a number of other sources in this piece, VICE News is not using her full name to protect her privacy.)

In the spring of 2022, after Eden had finished college and was seeking pathways to remain in the U.S., she ended up living in Columbus, Georgia, with a married couple, Bailee and Hayden, who were looking to host and support homeless trans people. 

“I hope our people get old. I hope we get to see our kids grow up to fight for us. I hope for trans rights worldwide.”

The pair told VICE News they became close with Eden. Bailee and Eden got their nails done together, while Hayden recalls being floored by how smart Eden was when they talked about economics. She was “like an aunt” to their child, Bailee told VICE News. 

“She really cared for our son. She loved our son and our son loved her,” Bailee said. “We at one point gifted her a bracelet that had the word ‘aunt’ etched into it.” 


Shortly after moving in, Eden started her medical transition. “She simultaneously started coming out of her shell and became such a bright beacon, but at the same time was overtaken by the shadow of, like, ‘I'm in a lot of trouble. I'm scared,’” Bailee said.

Victoria, a mutual friend of Bailee’s and Eden’s, went to her first Pride event with Eden in June 2022—the same week Eden had started hormone replacement therapy. 

“I remember seeing how happy and confident she was to start living as herself,” Victoria told VICE News.

In August, according to the note, Eden was contacted by a man offering to help her fix her fractured relationship with her parents. Hayden told VICE News that this was a phone call, which he overheard because Eden had put it on speaker; the man on the phone, he said, complimented half-naked photos of Eden he’d found online. 

“I remember that really struck me as odd and that was my first red flag with the guy,” Hayden said. “He was such a fucking creep.” Hayden and Bailee said the man didn’t bring them into his conversations with Eden, despite the fact that she was living with them.

That man, according to both Eden’s note and direct messages which she sent at the time and were reviewed by VICE News, was Michael Pocalyko, CEO of Special Investigations—a Washington-area government contractor specializing in “investigations, intelligence, and cyber”—as well as a novelist and former Republican official whose website describes him as “a combat aviator, Navy commander, political candidate, venture capitalist, and global corporate chair.” In a private message, Eden described him as “famous.” Neither Pocalyko nor the chair of Special Investigations responded to requests for comment.


“I remember seeing how happy and confident she was to start living as herself.”

Pocalyko, she wrote in her note, “claimed he was a ‘fixer’ and wanted to ‘fix’ the issue that was between me and my parents. I thought this was impossible, I’m transgender and they are strict conservative Muslims, but I decided I would give it a shot because it can’t hurt right lmao?”

Hayden and Bailee said Eden spoke with Pocalyko weekly. In her note, Eden wrote that these calls “seemed innocuous and honestly pretty helpful,” and she ultimately moved out of their Georgia house in October after Pocalyko, according to her note and multiple friends, encouraged her to go to Washington, D.C. 

Victoria told VICE News that Eden, who was in the U.S. without authorization, said she hoped she’d obtain U.S. citizenship there. 

Eden wrote in her note that Pocalyko and his associate Ellen Cole (who did not reply to a request for comment), along with a Saudi lawyer named Bader, met her at the train station and took her to a hotel. Then, Bader became her sole point of contact. “He pampered me,” Eden wrote. 

Do you have information about Bader, or other aspects of this story? Contact the reporters at anya.zoledziowski@vice.com or tim.marchman@vice.com. For extra security, using a non-work device, email from a free Protonmail or download the Signal app to a non-work device and text us there at 267-713-9832.


Bader, according to the note, got Eden an apartment, bought her meals, and put her in touch with therapists—all while subtly trying to convince her to detransition. (In a Nov. 1 text exchange between Eden and Hayden, reviewed by VICE News, Eden spoke of her apartment and sent Hayden a picture of her view.)  

“He tried to get me to be ‘normal.’ Gave me examples of feminine men and said that they are transgender but they are hiding it, that it’s better to hide it. Told me stories personally about people he knew that successfully hid it,” she wrote. Over time, Eden wrote, she became entirely dependent on him; running away wasn’t an option. She also worried, due to her legal status, that if she ran away, she’d ultimately be deported. 

Bailee, Hayden, and Victoria all say that their contact with Eden drastically decreased after she moved to Washington, and communication became more fragmented. But Victoria told VICE News she heard “bits and pieces” about how the person Eden was with forced her to dress masculine, and pressured her to stop hormone therapy. 

VICE News reviewed Discord messages between Eden and her close friend Zoe in which Eden makes reference to her “lawyer”—Bader, who she described as representing himself as Harvard-educated—and his attempts to convince her to detransition. “He knows I left my family to transition and told me to lie to them and say it was grade issues,” Eden wrote at the time. “He like constantly says I look like a man and a teenager that’s confused which is fine cuz I have piercings and dyed hair but I’m just having fun with those things they don't make me a woman, nobody misgenders me so purposely like he does.” Eden would later find out that Bader had been hired by her parents, she wrote.  


“He tried to get me to be ‘normal.’”

In Eden’s note, she detailed how she eventually stopped hormone replacement therapy, changed her clothes, and succumbed to the pressures to detransition. After a meeting with her parents, she wrote, Bader bought her a flight back to Saudi Arabia. 

Friends told VICE News she moved back sometime in mid-December. Hayden said he received a text from Eden in early December, asking him to pick her up before she replied saying, “I don’t need it anymore.” Then, radio silence, Hayden said. 

According to Eden’s note and her friends, Eden tried to continue hormone replacement therapy in secret while in Saudi Arabia, but her parents found her hormones more than once. 

This is when, according to Eden’s note, it all came out: Her parents admitted that Bader, Pocalyko, and Cole were hired to get Eden back to Saudi Arabia; they also berated her and called her a “freak.” 

The day after Eden posted her note, her family’s Twitter and Telegram channels posted that  she had died. Eden’s father did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the Saudi embassy in Washington.

Politicians peddling anti-trans policies often say they’re doing it to “protect children,” but trans people rarely regret transitioning. In fact, a new study found that only 0.3 percent of 1,989 participants voiced regret. When trans people do experience regret, it’s most often caused by societal stigma and lack of family support. Forced detransitioning can put a trans person’s mental health at grave risk, Reed said. 


“This is as much a murder as a suicide,” Zoe said. “Gender dysphoria and social isolation and the shame can be so bad—and having her hormones constantly confiscated. The things that she was going through were so insane that it wasn't just a mental health issue. I don't think most people could survive that, trans or otherwise.”

Studies show that trans people are more likely to experience mental health struggles, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and thoughts of suicide, than cisgender people, but gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, can improve mental health outcomes for trans youth. Parents who affirm their trans kids also make all the difference: Studies show that kids whose parents support their social transition don’t have higher rates of depression than their cis peers. 

Gender-affirming care is safe and effective, and endorsed by major national medical bodies in the U.S., including the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.   

But despite widespread medical consensus, there are trans kids in the U.S. who are being forced to detransition, and GOP lawmakers are making things even worse by introducing more than 450 anti-trans bills in the 2023 legislative session alone. The bills erode the ability for trans people to access gender-affirming care and participate in public life.

Tributes to Eden have been circulating on social media all week, as those close to her grieve.

“Eden started her journey on Twitter still living in the closet and hanging out with progressives and people who want to build a brighter, better world,” her friends wrote in the document they compiled about her situation. “Everyone who speaks about her mentions her humor and her kindness. She possessed an inner strength that we admire and know deserves recognition.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741, or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org for more information.

— With files from Alyza Enriquez