Brianna Ghey: Why journalists must stop using her deadname
Journalists and media organisations have been urged to report on the Brianna Ghey trial in a respectful way after she was deadnamed in “dehumanising” coverage.
Ghey, who was trans, was stabbed to death in a park in Culcheth, Warrington, on 11 February 2023. Two teenagers, both 16, stand accused of her murder, and are currently on trial in Manchester Crown Court.
On the first day of the trial, Mrs Justice Yip told jurors that Brianna had been “living as a young woman” at the time of her death, but that she had been assigned male at birth.
Ghey was also deadnamed in prosecution submissions. A BBC journalist was heavily criticised for sharing Ghey’s deadname on X, formerly Twitter, while quoting directly from the prosecution.
‘Harmful effects of perpetuating transphobic narratives’
Amy Roch, deputy CEO of LGBTQ+ anti-abuse charity Galop, told PinkNews that they see “firsthand the impact that rising transphobic discourse has on LGBT+ abuse and violence survivors”.
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“Dehumanising coverage of Brianna Ghey’s murder trial sends a harmful message that transphobic narratives are acceptable and has a direct effect on the abuse and violence faced by the trans+ community.
“It’s important that journalists recognise the harmful and real-life effects of perpetuating transphobic narratives in media coverage and the impact this has on the community’s everyday sense of safety.
“Trans victims of abuse already face additional barriers when seeking support and engaging with the criminal justice system, such as being misgendered, deadnamed and mistreated. We urge anyone reporting on the case to do so in a responsible way that not only prioritises respect for Brianna and her memory, but for the whole trans+ community.”
jane fae, chair of Trans Media Watch, told PinkNews that the media’s insistence on deadnaming Ghey is “disrespectful, abusive and hypocritical”.
“[The disrespect] is palpable, because it demonstrates a complete refusal to respect who Brianna was, and the name she had chosen to call herself; abuse, because while Brianna is now, sadly, beyond hurt, this usage is a dagger to the heart of those who loved her, an insult to trans people generally; and hypocrisy because, for all the protestations by media folks surrounding how it is important to maintain an accurate record, I see no evidence of this when it comes to cis name-changers, like Marion Morrison (John Wayne), Archibald Leach (Cary Grant) or Sue-Ellen Braverman (Suella Braverman).”
Journalists need to educate themselves before covering Ghey’s death
India Willoughby, a trans broadcaster, said there is “no justification whatsoever” for the press deadnaming Ghey.
“How does it help anyone repeatedly being told Brianna’s old name? The bulk of British media disgust me. It’s not even that they don’t understand the pain deadnaming causes – they absolutely do. In fact, they revel in it.”
Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, said journalists must take stock and educate themselves on trans issues if they’re reporting on the trial to avoid causing harm.
“The first question here for everybody should be, is the way in which this case is being reported malicious or is it being reported in ways that are insensitive because the journalist just doesn’t understand?” Jolyon said.
“Most of the coverage that I’ve read falls into that second category. It’s plainly relevant that Brianna was trans and I can easily imagine that journalists won’t understand that there are more or less insensitive ways of reporting that fact, and the job of those who want well-intentioned journalists to report sensitively on trans issues is to educate those journalists, not yell at them.”
Maugham also said he would be “very surprised if there was a legal reason” for the judge to have used Ghey’s deadname in court.
However, he said “that which is true of journalists is also going to be true of judges” – that some won’t be aware of the sensitivities around using a person’s deadname.
“The social demographic from which judges are drawn is narrower even than journalists, and even well-intentioned judges – and I would expect most to be well-intentioned – may struggle to handle sensitively aspects of proper sensitivity to the trans community.”
This article was amended on 29 November to reflect that Ghey’s deadname was used by both the judge and by the prosecution. An earlier version of the article suggested that it had only been used by the judge.
Readers affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans free on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.
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