Two teenagers were arrested on Sunday after a 16-year-old trans girl, Brianna Ghey, was found dead on a path in Culceth Linear Park in Warrington, Cheshire. It has since emerged that Brianna had been the target of a lengthy campaign of transphobic bullying.
Cheshire Constabulary has put out an appeal for information and is particularly keen to trace a white man and woman in their teens or early twenties, with dark, curly hair, who were seen in the park around the time when the attack happened.
“A number of enquiries in relation to this incident are underway and we are doing all that we can to establish the exact circumstances of what has happened,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Mike Evans.
Cheshire Constabulary stated that all lines of enquiry are being explored, including whether this was a hate crime.
DCS Evans noted that Brianna appeared to have been the victim of a targeted attack, and requested that anyone with information call 101 quoting incident number IML 1476832.
The two people arrested are a 15-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl, both from the local area.
Crimes against trans people continue to rise
Violence against trans children and young people is, sadly, not unusual. Whilst most incidents are limited to lower-level attacks like spitting and pushing, there have been several more serious incidents in the UK in recent years.
An 11-year-old trans girl was shot with a BB gun at her Manchester school in 2017 after a five month bullying campaign which included being spat at and kicked to the ground. Although she did not suffer serious injuries, she was described by her mother as severely traumatised.
In 2019, a trans teenager was cut on the face in a knife attack in Witham, Essex, before managing to run to safety. In the same year, a girl in Grimsby was left with a severe concussion after being attacked at school and kicked in the head in what her mother said was the third serious attack she had suffered.
Reports of hate crimes against trans people have increased dramatically over the same period. “This awful rise must also not be viewed out of context. It has been fuelled by a cynical campaign of vicious lies and smears spread about our trans siblings… this abusive behaviour must never be normalised.” said Maggie Chapman of the Scottish Greens.
Parents of trans children have expressed their distress at Brianna’s death and spoken of their personal worries. Several said that their teenagers have been badly bullied and that it has been difficult to get anything done about it.
Fear of being targeted for violence is widespread among trans people. In England and Wales, the CPS has found that 62% to 73% of trans people have experienced harassment or violence because they were identified as trans, with 91% of trans boys and 66% of trans girls harassed at school, often with serious consequences for their mental health.
Trust in the police is low, with many people not expecting to be taken seriously and others feeling that the police won’t do anything useful even if they are sympathetic. Still others say that they don’t bother to report low-level hate incidents to police because they occur so frequently.
Scotland is more proactive to tackling hate, however violent incidents still occur
While many people south of the border see Scotland as safer because it has taken a more proactive approach to tackling hate, violent incidents occur here too. In 2019 a 30-year-old woman was attacked with a broken bottle and savagely beaten by two men who threatened to kill her and said that they didn’t want trans people in Dunfermline. The same year saw a trans man attacked and kicked in the head in Aberdeen by a woman who persistently misgendered him during the assault.
Earlier this month, concerns were raised when a Glasgow demonstration against reform of the Gender Recognition Act was attended by far right activists including a former member of the BNP. Other participants in the demonstration said that they had tried unsuccessfully to persuade them to leave.
Members of the trans community expressed dismay at the fact that several newspapers, including The Times, Daily Mail and Daily Express, failed to respect Brianna’s gender when reporting on her death. The Times has since amended its article to use her preferred pronouns.
Because gender recognition is not available to people under 18 in the UK, Brianna will also be misgendered on her death certificate, regardless of her family’s wishes.
“Brianna was a much loved daughter, granddaughter, and baby sister,” said her family in a statement. “She was a larger than life character who would leave a lasting impression on all that met her. Brianna was beautiful, witty and hilarious. Brianna was strong, fearless and one of a kind.
“The loss of her young life has left a massive hole in our family, and we know that the teachers and her friends who were involved in her life will feel the same. We would like to thank everyone for their kind words and support during this extremely difficult time.”
Cheshire Constabulary requested that the family’s privacy be respected at this difficult time.