Brianna Ghey vigil: UK a ‘dangerous country to be trans’, say mourners of slain schoolgirl
The UK is a “dangerous” place to be trans, attendees of a Brianna Ghey vigil, held in London’s Soho Square on Saturday (18 February), told PinkNews.
Hundreds of trans people and allies gathered in central London on the weekend to pay tribute to the 16-year-old, who was murdered just seven days prior.
“We are tired of going to vigils,” a speaker yelled to the crowds gathered.
“We are tired of mourning our trans sisters, trans brothers, and trans siblings who have been so cruelly taken from us.”
The emotional gathering took place after a week of vigils and protests across the UK, to remember the trans teen girl who was murdered seven day prior.
Brianna was found in a park in Warrington by pedestrians on 11 February after she was stabbed to death by a boy and a girl, both aged 15.
Both suspects were arrested and charged shortly after news broke of her tragic killing, which is being investigated as a potential hate crime.
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“We are tired of seeing our names smeared by the disgraceful, transphobic media class that profit from our suffering, and then look the other way when a child is murdered,” the speaker, who wished to remain anonymous, added.
Brianna Ghey’s death has been felt across the LGBTQ+ community as yet another horrific culmination of the malice that has been building towards trans and non-binary people.
Attendees at the London protest held cardboard signs that read “TERFs have blood on their hands” and “trans lives are human lives.”
“Fleet Street and Westminster, you have blood on your hands,” the anonymous speaker continued following applause from the crowd.
“This cannot happen again,” they yelled. “No more trans femicide, no more trans suicide, no more scapegoating of tiny, tiny populations like trans people.
“Like refugees – who, we would like to add, are not mutually exclusive groups.
“No more accepting politicians who turn up to Pride for a f**king photo-op but refuse to condemn the senseless murder of a teenage girl.”
Media and politicians criticised
Various media outlets and political figureheads were deeply criticised in the aftermath of Brianna’s death.
Not only did The Times briefly use Brianna Ghey’s deadname – the name she used before her transition – but The New York Times refused to take responsibility for it’s anti-trans commentary, following backlash and an open letter from staff.
Keir Starmer has also been shamed for his policies on trans people, which the community responded to on London’s Wednesday vigil where they chanted “f**k Keir Starmer.”
After making several promises in 2022 about making Labour an LGBTQ+ inclusive party, Starmer has since stayed completely silent on Brianna’s murder and, last month said that 16 years old was too young to change gender or obtain a gender recognition certificate.
It is that policy which means that Brianna’s gender identity won’t appear correctly on her death certificate.
‘We need them to make the country safer for us’
Unlike many of the vigils that took place in the UK this week, Saturday’s vigil felt less like a protest, and more of time to mourn, and grieve the loss of a young trans life.
Sure, there were chants for trans rights, and hand-made signs pleading for progressive change, but the atmosphere of silence around Soho Square’s market cross building – where people could lay flowers in dedication to Brianna – was representative of how tired trans people are.
One of them, Edward, told PinkNews: “It just really hits home that this is a dangerous country to be a trans person.
“The happiest part about this is seeing the older people here, because Brianna was so young, and I think all trans people fear that our life expectancy is dropping.
“We’re reaching a crisis point,” they continued.
“Things like Brianna’s death show that it’s the case. We need them to make the country safer for us.”
Since becoming prime minister, Rishi Sunak – who once said he believed trans women aren’t women – has signalled his intention to remove trans people from the Equality Act, risked cutting ties with Scotland to deny trans people rights, and has appointed a number of anti-trans politicians to his cabinet.
But beyond the bitter, transphobic shadow looming over this tragic killing, activists such as Xander expressed just how “f**king sad” it is to be at another vigil.
“It’s not right having to be here,” they told PinkNews. “For Brianna to be taken from the world so soon.”
Xander noted that, while Brianna’s activism was incredibly “brave” and “amazing,” a 16-year-old should not have to worry about their own rights being taken from them.
“At 16, you should be worrying about your GCSEs, which college you want to go to, your hopes and goals.”
The vigil also brought people from across the world, who shared messages of similar injustices in their own country.
Activists from a Chinese LGBTQ+ activist group the LCSA shared solidarity with Brianna’s death while sharing the horrific instances of transphobia in China.
“There is a general attack against trans people globally to politicise them with very sinister motives,” they told PinkNews.
“It is with a very heavy heart that me and my friend came here today for the vigil.”
The speeches at the vigil were brief, but powerful. An emotional poem read by an elderly trans woman, a call to action by a trans ex-prisoner, and a plea for the government to do the “bare minimum” by a researcher.
But it was the post-vigil conversations about Brianna between strangers that were so important – how she was an aspirational trans activist who used her voice at such a young age to do right by herself and her community.
It’s rare to see trans people feel truly safe to be themselves and talk about the societal injustices that they so desperately want to be addressed, but walking through the crowded Soho Square gardens, hearing total strangers share their lived experiences – it was clear that this was a safe place to just truly exist for a moment.
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