Brianna Ghey: Unprecedented demand for LGBTQ+ helplines after trans girl’s tragic killing

Brianna Ghey on a trans flag

Charities supporting LGBTQ+ people have seen a huge rise in calls and referrals to their helplines in the days following Brianna Ghey’s death, PinkNews has learned. 

National helpline Switchboard LGBT+ and trans children’s charity Mermaids shared figures directly with PinkNews which revealed a surge in demand for support. 

Many callers to the services expressed sadness and grief for Ghey but also fears for their own safety following the killing in Warrington.

The 16-year-old was found with stab wounds by a member of the public in Linear Park in Culcheth, Cheshire on Saturday (11 February). Emergency services scrambled to the park but she was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Following her death, two 15-year-olds – a boy and girl from Leigh – were arrested and have subsequently been charged with Ghey’s murder

Initially Cheshire Police were not treating the killing as a hate crime, however the force has now said it will not rule out Ghey’s death was motivated by the fact she was trans.

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Brianna Ghey, a trans girl who was killed in a park in Warrington.
Brianna Ghey was found in a Warrington park with multiple stab wounds on Saturday 11 February 2023. (Supplied)

News of Ghey’s death has rocked the LGBTQ+ community, with queer people and allies alike left “heartbroken” by the tragic circumstances surrounding her passing.

Thousands of people have gathered at vigils across the UK to pay tribute to the “beautiful, witty and hilarious” schoolgirl, with more expected to take place in coming days.

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Switchboard LGBT+, one of the oldest LGBT+ telephone helplines in the UK, said that on Wednesday (15 February) nearly half of all calls it received were about Ghey. 

Compared to the same week in February 2022, Switchboard has seen a 79 per cent increase in the number of calls they received to the service with a significant shift in focus to topics around transphobia, gender identity and hate crimes; 40 per cent specifically referencing Ghey. 

The charity said the main themes of the calls were feelings of grief, anger and fear for personal safety and the safety of others within the trans and non-binary community. 

Some callers spoke through tears as they expressed their sadness at news of Ghey’s death while others mentioned wanting to take action in the fight against transphobia, the charity said. 

Pictures of 16-year-old Brianna Ghey with the message ‘REST IN POWER’ are displayed surrounded by candles during a candlelit vigil in her memory on Tuesday (14 February) in Liverpool, England. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Mermaids, which supports trans kids and their families, told PinkNews the charity’s telephone and webchat service received 43 more referrals on Monday and Tuesday – a 31 per cent increase on the same days the previous week. 

Stephanie Fuller, CEO of Switchboard LGBT+ said that everyone at the service has been “deeply saddened” by the “tragic and senseless loss”. 

“Sadly, calls of the nature we have been receiving regarding the loss of Brianna are not a new thing for us,” Fuller explained.

“In recent years we have seen an ever-rising tide of calls from trans and non-binary people from all across the UK expressing anxiety around representation in the media, the public debates around their identities, access to healthcare, and personal safety. 

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“For the trans and non-binary communities, the environment now feels very relatable to that experienced by lesbian and gay communities in the 80s and 90s.” 

She urged people to continue reaching out to services such as Switchboard LGBTQ+ if they feel in need of support and added: “Rest in Power Brianna.”

People gathered at a vigil for Brianna Ghey
Thousands of people turned out to pay tribute to trans teen Brianna Ghey in London on Wednesday (15 February) (NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images)

A spokesperson for trans children’s charity Mermaids echoed the grief of the wider trans community and urged people to give Ghey’s family privacy at this time.

“Whether or not the police decide to label Brianna’s tragic murder a hate crime or not, the UK has seen an alarming year-on-year rise in hate crime perpetrated against the trans community, and this is having a directly harmful impact on young people’s ability to live their lives safely and thrive,” they told PinkNews.

“Brianna’s murder has shaken the entire LGBTQ+ community,” they continued, “Mermaids has seen a spike in the number of referrals to our helpline with trans young people, and their family, seeking emotional support and practical support on how to stay safe in what is an increasingly hostile environment for trans people.”

If you need support you can contact Switchboard LGBT+ on 0300 330 0630 or via the charity’s website and Mermaids helpline is available on 0808 801 0400 or via its webchat.

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