Members and allies of the transgender community are mourning Brianna Ghey, the 16-year-old transgender girl found dead with multiple stab wounds in a park in northwestern England this past weekend.
Two 15-year-olds, a boy and a girl, have been charged with murder. On February 13th, A chief detective told British newspaper The Times that Ghey’s murder was “a targeted attack,” but Cheshire detectives claimed there was no evidence to suggest that the killing was “hate related.” Following social media outcry from transgender activists and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community, police investigating the case are now saying that all lines of inquiry are being explored, including hate crime.
A few days prior to her death, Ghey uploaded a video to her popular TikTok account with the caption: “Got excluded from school.” Those that knew her claimed she had been a victim of bullying at school for years due to being transgender.
Social media users were quick to draw attention to the increasingly hostile climate for transgender individuals in the U.K., including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s outspoken criticism of the movement for transgender rights and inclusion, for which she has recently been making headlines. For some Twitter users, the spike in media attention surrounding Rowling’s transphobic ideas around the time of Ghey’s murder seemed insensitive at best, and even damaging. Twitter user Serena Daniari pointed out that the New York Times published an opinion piece defending Rowling’s bigoted stance in the same week as both Ghey’s death and the publication being denounced by GLAAD, along with over 100 other organizations and advocates, for its biased reporting on transgender people.
It’s actually jaw dropping that @nytopinion published another anti-trans op/ed the day after GLAAD denounced them for transphobic reporting and the week of Brianna Ghey’s murder. The magnitude of their audacity would almost be admirable if the stakes weren’t so high. pic.twitter.com/40DMFqoVEx
— Serena Daniari (@serenajazmine) February 16, 2023
The Trans Safety Network made a statement on the killing of Brianna Ghey, pointing out that it occurred during a time of “unprecedented” discrimination and disdain towards transgender individuals promoted by those in power, and that Ghey’s identity being “disrespected” by the press “compounds [the] harm.”
— Trans Safety Network (@trans_safety) February 13, 2023
Outrage over Ghey’s death was exacerbated as publications “deadnamed” her in their coverage of the story – that is, published the name she was referred to as prior to her transition. The Times came under fire for editing their article covering Ghey’s murder to refer to her by her deadname and remove all references to her being a girl.
We are appalled to note that @thetimes have now updated their article on the killing of Brianna Ghey to remove all references to her being a girl and to add her deadname.
— Trans Safety Network (@trans_safety) February 13, 2023
Brianna Ghey’s identity was acknowledged and accepted by her family, who stated that she was a “much loved daughter, granddaughter, and baby sister.” Her family’s statement also mentioned that “she was a larger than life character who would leave a lasting impression on all that met her. Brianna was beautiful, witty, hilarious.”
Multiple close friends of Ghey shared their memories of her with VICE World News. Fellow transgender teenage girls connected with Ghey online through TikTok and online support groups for young trans girls. Friends told VICE that the internet was a big part of Brianna Ghey’s life, and where the majority of her closest friends were. These young women recounted that Brianna was “like a sister” to them, helping them access medical care for their transitions, being open about her own mental health and the ups and downs of being a transgender girl online, and always encouraged and supported members of her community.
A GoFundMe page was set up to assist Ghey’s loved ones with funeral costs; As of February 14th, thousands had donated and the fundraising appeal had beaten its goal sixteen times over.
Thousands across the U.K. and Ireland have gathered for candlelight vigils honoring Brianna Ghey, organized by activists like the Transgender Action Bloc, who organized a London vigil that included speeches about the increase in violent media rhetoric targeting transgender people, chants of protest, and calls for change.
Thanks to everyone who came. Brianna was an absolutely inspirational teenager, who will be missed by those who were blessed to know her. She was a hero. pic.twitter.com/PQmCY2koPs
— Transgender Action Block (@TransActionBloc) February 15, 2023
Here at the London Vigil for Brianna Ghey. Easily a thousand people here, maybe more. pic.twitter.com/YLsJrDwkJG
— Jason Reid (@JasonReidUK) February 15, 2023
More vigils are planned to take place through the coming days, according to a map compiled by Stonewall Was a Riot, who catalog peaceful transgender rights protests across the U.K.
Violence against the transgender community has been on the rise in recent years, at least in part due to the increase in anti-trans rhetoric in popular media and lawmakers passing discriminatory bills, both in the U.K. and here in the U.S. The Human Rights Campaign has been tracking incidents of fatal violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people across the U.S. since 2013; In the first two months of this year, four victims have been reported. Murders of transgender people nearly doubled between 2017 and 2021 in the U.S., with Black transgender women being most at risk. When we hear anti-trans ideologies come up, whether in the media we consume or from those around us, it’s now more important than ever to shut them down and recognize how those ideas lead to violence against some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.
Photo: Screengrab from Instagram