Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Brianna Ghey in the time of J.K. Rowling

The importance of protecting trans lives
Shannon Broderick / Daily Collegian (2015).

On Feb. 11, 2023, the body of a young girl was found in the woods in a small English town called Warrington. She was identified as Brianna Ghey, a 16-year-old transgender girl. Two 15-year-olds have already been charged with her murder and are set to stand trial in July. Authorities have stated that they are unsure if the murder was a hate crime based on Brianna’s transgender identity. Regardless, her death sparked a huge conversation surrounding the topics of transgender people and transphobia.

This heinous crime occurred at a time when public transphobia is at an all-time high. Certain internet celebrities and elected officials have created an atmosphere where transphobic content, statements and mindsets are not only accepted, but frequently encouraged. This phenomenon created a pipeline, targeting young people with bigoted content in order to ensure this outdated mindset continues within future generations.

Some of this online rhetoric has come from unexpected sources. Author of the popular children’s series, “Harry Potter,” J.K. Rowling’s name has become virtually synonymous with a growing group of people known as TERFs. TERF stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or someone who does not see transgender women as women. J.K. Rowling’s fame serves to normalize the transphobic content she regularly posts online. On her personal blog, she wrote a lengthy piece outlining her views on transgender people, stating: “When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside.”

Transphobic rhetoric has not been isolated to online discourse. Several laws are being introduced across the country which target transgender people on the basis of their identities. Introduced in November 2022, the Tennessee state legislature is working to pass a bill (HB 1) that would ban hormone treatment or any procedure that “is for the purpose of enabling a minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex.”

A similar bill in Florida (HB 991) is attempting to rewrite the state’s defamation laws. If enacted, it will protect those who make bigoted remarks from people who call them out on them. Essentially, someone can say something transphobic, and if you call them a transphobe, they can sue you for $35,000. The bill goes so far as to state, “A defendant cannot prove the truth of an allegation of discrimination with respect to sexual orientation or gender identity by citing a plaintiff’s constitutionally protected religious expression or beliefs.” Apart from being a terrible law that protects bigots, the bill has also been criticized for upending decades of defamation-related precedent.

With attacks on them being insistent and unending, it is no surprise that most transgender people are fearful for their lives and concerned about their futures. According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, 82 percent of transgender people have considered suicide, while 40 percent have attempted it. These staggeringly high numbers are a result of living a life that society rejects. It is hard enough to be a transgender person without the constant hate and bigotry that is constantly spewed upon them, and it’s despicable that there are people who tirelessly work to make transgender people’s lives even worse.

The death of Brianna Ghey is shaking the world, and vigils are being held for her across Great Britain. Unfortunately, many people are using this tragic time to continue spreading their bigoted rhetoric. A vigil held in her memory in Manchester was interrupted by a group of masked people shouting, “F**k LGBT.” Online, a number of Twitter users have shared posts misgendering Ghey, with some even creating a fake deadname­, or the name that a transgender person uses before transitioning.

In a statement, Brianna Ghey’s family said she “was a much-loved daughter, granddaughter and baby sister” who “was strong, fearless and one of a kind.” Her death rocked transgender and queer communities across the world, and she will not be forgotten. Brianna Ghey deserves to rest in peace and be remembered as the beacon of light that she was. She, along with every other transgender individual, deserves the same basic rights: to be respected, remembered, understood and loved.


Zach Leach can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @ZachLeach12.

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    PaulMar 3, 2023 at 4:45 pm

    Hey everyone, if you think “female” is a scientifically distinct sex-based reality, and an identity which may at times be relevant to formation of laws and policies, you caused the death of Brianna Ghey.

    – 2023 Progressive