Sunday 19 February 2023

Nerd Church - Brianna Ghey

(WARNING: This post discusses the violent death of a Trans child, i.e. the murder of Brianna Ghey, and related topics, including but not limited to - Transphobia, systemic Transphobia, hate crimes, misgendering, deadnaming.

Any links may likewise contain distressing material.)


There is only one topic that I could see myself writing about this week.

The thing that has haunted so many LGBTQ+ people in the UK and beyond. The murder of Brianna Ghey.

On 11th February 2023, in Cheshire, UK, a beautiful teenage Trans girl was murdered.

Brianna Ghey was 16 years old, and brutally murdered.

The boy and girl charged with her murder are 15 years old. They are presumably Cisgender (non-Trans.)

I'm going to be careful with what I say in this post

 - because I firmly believe everyone deserves the right to a fair trial, and also because contempt of court laws here in the UK limit what can be published about people who have not yet been convicted, in order to avoid prejudicing the case.

And unlike a lot of people on social media, I am a big fan of both not being fined for contempt of court, and doing the right thing by giving everyone the rights that they are entitled to.

So, if you find some of my wording to be overly cautious - that's why.

It's not yet known whether Brianna's death was a hate crime, but it's a possibility that the police are investigating.

...It's a pretty strong possibility, in my own opinion.

But whether or not it was a hate crime, it was the violent murder of a 16-year-old Transgender child, amongst a media climate that can, at best, be described as unfriendly to Trans people.

And most of the time it's a lot worse than unfriendly - the UK media are often downright Transphobic, and they've only ramped up the rhetoric as of late, borrowing the 'groomers' term from the US, and platforming as many Transphobic views as they can.

In fact, even the violent murder of a child hasn't stopped them.

Some of the actions of the media this last week have been truly galling, though not as bad as some of the social media posts, as you can imagine.

Even in death, Brianna is not automatically entitled to her own identity.

16-year-olds can't legally change their gender in the UK (though the Scottish Parliament is trying to change that for Scotland - long, constitutionally messy, story.)

Her death will be registered with her birth gender. 

If she hadn't changed her name by deed poll, her death will be registered under her birth name, also known as a deadname. 

The inquest into her death (usually opened and then adjourned in murder cases, pending criminal proceedings,) will likely misgender her, and - if the deed poll isn't in place - will also likely deadname her.

The court case against her alleged murderers may even do the same.

Her family may have difficulties having words such as 'daughter' put on any gravestone or memorials, depending on the cemetery or crematorium involved, and the rules in the local area.

...All of which is a lot of stress for a grieving family to deal with. And yet more indignity to her.

But the boy and girl charged with her murder will, no doubt, not be misgendered in any legal or court documents.

Their correct names will be used (albeit, quite rightly, not released to the public without a court order because they're children.)

The girl involved will be housed with other arrested girls, the boy with other arrested boys. No-one will demand that the girl is moved to a boys' youth offenders unit or prison.

No-one will imply that Cisgender children shouldn't have presumed innocence.

No-one will use them as an example of how all Cisgender people are inherently violent.

I've tried, for my own mental health, not to let myself dwell too much on the murder itself.

On what happened to her.

On how scared she must have been.

...I've tried, for my own mental health, not to let myself dwell too much on the brutality of the attack...

...but it keeps slipping through, into my thoughts, around the edges.

Brianna didn't deserve that. 

No-one deserves that, let alone an innocent child.

An innocent 16 year old girl.

Brianna deserved to see her 17th birthday. Brianna deserved to live.

If you're in the UK, please sign the petition to allow Gender Recognition Certificates (legal change of gender,) to be granted posthumously or in exceptional circumstances, without the normal process being required. #DignityForBrianna

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  1. I had no idea of contempt of court laws in the UK, but good that you're aware of that and conscious of your wording. What I want to discuss in relation to this tragedy is how a few days after she was killed, the NYT wrote an article defending a well known bigoted children's book author. As if this time was the right time to continue spreading harmful narratives. Whether or not the police determine if the killing was a hate crime, it is certainly true that hateful narratives surrounding trans people circulate by well known celebrities every single day. And these narratives continue to push potentially deadly threats onto trans people.

    1. We have some pretty strict contempt of court laws - which there's a huge amount of variation in enforcing, but I have bad luck for days and *know* that if anyone gets prosecuted, it'll somehow be me!

      I considered mentioning the discourse around certain people trying to rehab their image by making out (again,) that they're the victims here - but I decided that she doesn't get a place in the main body of this post. This post is about Brianna, not about people who are so desperate for attention that they will do anything to get it, including harming entire marginalised groups.

      Brianna died in a cultural atmosphere with increasingly violent Transphobic rhetoric - and it hasn't stopped, even now.


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