On Monday 20 February, Saints LGBT+ and the Student Solidarity Network held a vigil to honour the life of Brianna Ghey. The vigil included speeches from Saints LGBT+ Officer Sofia Johnson and Ol Leach (Vil) as well as other speakers from the audience. The vigil was open for any attendee to speak.
Brianna Ghey was a 16-year-old transgender girl from Cheshire, England, who was murdered on 11 February. Two 15-year-olds have been charged with the murder. The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime, due to the years of transphobic harassment and bullying she faced before the incident.
The candle-lit vigil was held in St Salvator’s Quad at 7pm, with speakers remembering Brianna and the impact she had on her community. Vice published a tribute including memories of Brianna, as told by her close friend, Amelia. This tribute was read out at the St Andrews vigil, “We were supposed to be meeting up later this year, and we’d been planning for months how we wanted to have a life together. We would plan our future apartment, and how we’d go and get our hair done, have our surgeries. But now I’m having to think about doing all of that by myself.”
The first speaker explained, “The media continues to dehumanise trans people by questioning their identities”. Another guest shared, “Throughout history there have always been trans people and there will always be trans people”.
Sofia emphasised the importance of the community here in St Andrews, “We need to stick together in the next few days. Nobody has our backs like we have each other’s backs”.
A poster displayed the words “Dignity for Brianna.” This is in reference to the fact that Brianna is likely to be misgendered on her Death Certificate – due to her age and the British legal process – denying her dignity even in death, as some activists have described.
Ol Leach led the crowd in a moment of disruption, with clapping and cheering, to express anger at the situation. She said, “I am so angry at the world right now, for taking such aggressive action against people like me”.
She added, “Trans people transition for themselves, for some reason these bigger corporations have spread an ideology”. She continued, “The kind of ideology that allows someone to do this is bigotry.”
The event has brought to light the relentless hostile discourse by the British press on transgender rights in recent years. In 2020, the Independent Press Standards Organization reported that the amount of UK media coverage of trans rights had increased 414 per cent – on average, 224 stories per month. This coverage has created a mainstream ideological wave that has led to acts of violence against transgender people in the UK. According to Stop Hate UK, in 2020-21 there was a 16 per cent increase in hate crimes against transgender people. The Council of Europe has even criticized the UK for its concerningly rampant anti-trans rhetoric.
Another speaker said, “Sadly, Brianna isn’t the first trans person we’ve lost to senseless, targeted violence, and she won’t be the last,”
They added, “Rest in pride”.
A GoFundMe page for Brianna’s memorial states, “She was looking forward to taking her exams this year and beginning her journey into the adult world.”
Photography: Maggie Zhu