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Brianna Esther Ghey.jpg

British Politicians Treat Brianna Ghey's Murder as a Joke

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Politics | February 9, 2024 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Politics | February 9, 2024 |


Brianna Esther Ghey.jpg

This month, the murderers of trans teenager Brianna Ghey were sentenced to life in prison. The killers were named for the first time, but I won’t do so here because they don’t deserve the airtime. During sentencing, the judge took the time to note that at least one of the two perpetrators was in part motivated to stab Ghey to death because she was trans. The killer had repeatedly misgendered Ghey in text messages and said he wanted to know if Ghey screamed like a boy or a girl. This sentencing was tough to watch, but I must admit that I let out a sigh of relief when transphobia was named as a motive. Since Ghey’s death, the British media and political sphere has gone out of its way to either ignore Ghey’s identity or actively deride it. Full-time transphobes, who spend their days screaming about cancel culture in columns for broadsheet newspapers, pretended to be sad about a young woman’s death but kept insisting it had nothing to do with her being trans. We know differently, and the judge made it undeniable.

In a normal society, the transphobic murder of a teenager would be a turning point. It would lead to a reckoning of how bigotry led to such a tragedy and perhaps encourage policy changes. Alas, Britain is now TERF Island, and the status quo dictates that the true means of responding to Ghey’s murder is to turn it into content while exacerbating the rhetoric that made her life so difficult.

Transphobia has, for some reason, become the one issue that practically every major and minor political party in the UK can agree upon. The ruling Conservative Party has doubled down hard on hatred of trans people, fuelled by similar policy overload across the pond and media-engineered hysteria that has evolved into full-blown hatred of women, trans or cis. During this week’s session of Prime Minister’s Questions, which is more the world’s worst playground tiff than a display of democracy, PM Rishi Sunak responded to a question from Labour leader Keir Starmer by making a calculated dig at the party’s policies on trans issues. It was a cheap moment of transphobia that should have been considered shameful under any circumstances. What made it all the more ghoulish was that Esther Ghey, Brianna’s mother, was in attendance at PMQs.

Nobody expects better from Rishi Sunak. He’s a louse of a man who can barely conceal his contempt for the public who he wants to rule over and has shown himself all too willing to trample over anyone and everyone to stay on top. He’s as callous as Boris Johnson but with none of the forced charm, which makes his scramble to power all the more baffling. That didn’t make it any easier to watch him gloat over transphobic policy during PMQs. After all, that same week, he’d giddily taken a monetary bet from Piers Morgan over the government’s plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. What was one dead trans girl to him aside from another easy target in the trite yet dangerous culture wars the Tories have adopted with the same zeal as their Republican brethren overseas?

Nobody expects better from Keir Starmer either. The leader of the ‘opposition’, and I use that term lightly, has tossed aside all vaguely progressive ideas he once preached in favour of a political philosophy that is essentially, ‘what if we were exactly like the Conservatives but less gauche?’ He’s so lacking in a backbone that I’m stunned he can stand upright. Starmer is the kind of man who could be asked how his day was going and he would need seventeen aides to recommend an answer. They’ve abandoned eco-friendly promises, swung hard-right on issues of refugees, and pandered to the deafening minority of transphobes who have saturated every corner of our media landscape. Sure, Keir may offer some anodyne buzzwords on queer rights, but he has no qualms with throwing trans people under the bus and playing into fearmongering about trans kids and their safety. The only reason he called out Sunak’s cruelty at the dispatch box was because Ghey’s mother was present and it offered him a chance to one-up his opponent. Had she not been there for him to have a photo op with, I doubt he would have cared.

Every week, it’s like this. Every day. A judge confirming that Ghey’s murder was in part motivated by transphobia may make the press and politicians think twice about their tone but it won’t change their policy plans, which are causing active harm to queer people across the board. Maybe those who bring ‘I Heart JK Rowling’ signs to pride marches will express weak condolences to Ghey’s parents but they won’t stop misgendering her or claiming she was a victim of abuse. They don’t see their rhetoric or lobbying as part of the problem. Actually, I’m not sure that’s true. I think they know exactly what they’re doing and are happy with the endgame. They just don’t like it when the headlines about them are negative for once in a blue moon. It’s hard to spin a murdered teenager as good news for your cause, even if your hate speech actively encourages the erasure of an entire group of people.

Sunak, of course, didn’t apologize. He rushed to get a meeting with Esther Ghey but has no desire to change his policy on LGBTQ+ people. There will be lots of talk of ‘online safety’ for teens but nothing to combat the hordes of grown f*cking adults who make serious bank from portraying trans people as rapists, groomers, and mentally ill dangers to society. The Daily Mail, one of the most vocal perpetrators of media transphobia in the UK, made Ghey’s death into a tatty true crime podcast. There is more money to be made from trans people when they’re dead or in danger. The message is clear.

If Brianna Ghey’s murder has proven anything, it’s that the transphobes in power can do or say anything and the system will affirm it without fear of consequence. Transphobia was always a route towards the normalization of full-blown misogyny and queerphobia, as recent headlines declaring that ‘it’s time feminists started listening to men’ prove. The women who align themselves with transphobia won’t be exempt from this hate war. Just look at how many of these TERFs end up being ‘transvestigated’ by creeps with phrenology heads who think their bone structure and haircut is proof that they’re actually trans. A system that relies on dictating the terms of gender to one demographic will inevitably lead to it being applied to everyone, and that’s just plain old patriarchy, no matter how much you spin it.

Brianna Ghey’s memory deserves better than to be a footnote in the rot of transphobia that has saturated this hellish island. She is but one of too many trans people to have been abused, degraded, and murdered throughout history, a statistic the world seems keen to forget or malign (transphobes sure do love to claim that suicide numbers for queer and trans people are made-up.) It’s painfully clear that Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer, the broadsheets, the tabloids, and every worthless think-piece regurgitator sees Brianna as someone to exploit rather than commemorate. The marginalized are talking points, not people, to them.