Six of Brianna Ghey’s close friends have told VICE World News how the trans teenager, who was stabbed to death in northern England, “changed their lives”.
One friend said that 16-year-old Brianna had “been cruelly ripped away from us," as they remembered how she helped them access medical care for their transitions, had to deal with transphobic bullies, and documented her ups and downs of being a trans girl online.
Brianna was found with stab wounds in Linear Park in Culcheth, Cheshire, on Saturday the 11th of February. After being attended to by emergency services, she was pronounced dead at the scene.
A boy and a girl, both 15 years old, have been arrested in connection with the incident.
Police have said they are trying to work out a motive for the attack and locate the murder weapon. DCS Mike Evans, the lead investigator on the case, had earlier said there was “no evidence” that Brianna’s gender identity was a factor in her killing. However on Tuesday police issued a new statement to say that they were not ruling out the possibility that it was a hate crime.
Amelia, from Edinburgh, Scotland, told VICE World News she spoke to Brianna every day, including the day she died.
“She made me feel unstoppable as a trans girl, and really pretty, because she would never let me put myself down,” said Amelia, who like the other friends of Brianna we spoke to agreed to speak on the condition only their first names be used so they could speak more openly.
“I met Brianna three years ago. We met through TikTok when she was new to the app, when she’d just started doing makeup videos,” Amelia said. “She was posting about the fact she was trans, and I told her straight away that I am too, because at that moment I didn’t have any trans friends.”
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“We were just really similar, and we told each other everything. We even started hormones together.”
“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.”
Channah is 16 and lives in Cornwall, England. She first met Brianna last year in an Instagram group chat.
“We’re both trans women from small villages, so our support network is all internet-based, and people don’t understand how big that network is. We all know and support each other,” she said.
“Brianna was one of the most open people I’ve ever met. It’s obvious she was struggling, with her mental health and being bullied – online and in real life – there’s no denying that, but she kept going. It didn’t ever stop her doing anything,” continued Channah.
“I’d never met anyone who started their transition so young who was so respectful and welcoming to other trans women, not catty at all. She’d help younger trans women to safely and legally access hormones, advising them about private doctors, and congratulating them on progress.”
“I’m just so angry and sad. The sweetest 16-year-old girl who was a beacon of positivity, now gone.”
But since creating a group dedicated to Brianna’s memory, “half of the messages” received by Channah’s account have been hate-filled and transphobic.
“They can’t let go of their horrible politics for one minute,” she tells us. “They’re constantly trying to debate, or trying to say that she’s actually a man, it’s vile.”
Other trans girls told VICE World News how the internet was “the biggest part” of Brianna’s life – it was “where she felt safest”, and where the majority of her closest friends were.
Rochelle, who lives in Germany, told us how Brianna was like a sister to her, even though they lived so far apart.
“We had sweet nicknames, like Bri Bri. I just can’t imagine the pain she must have felt in that park.”
Tiana, a 16-year-old from Nottingham, also first met Brianna in an online group for trans young people.
“Brianna would constantly look out for the girls in the chat. She helped me find ways to access medical care for my transition safely. She would always make sure that we were in good hands,” said Tiana.
Jade is 19 and from West Yorkshire. Speaking to VICE World News, she called herself a “fellow trans sister” of Brianna.
Jade told us she felt “sick” because of the way media outlets initially reported Brianna’s death. Some newspapers used her dead name, while others ignored the fact she is trans, which Jade called “disrespectful to her, especially because the police said it was a targeted attack.”
She added: “It’s all made me feel less safe. I’m scared to leave my house now, and I’m scared I could just walk down the street and be killed. Cis people need to make us feel safer.”
“I, and her community, will make sure she is remembered as the strong trans woman she was.”
Hannah, 23 from Liverpool, agreed, saying: “If Bri would have wanted anything from her passing, it would be change.”
She had spoken to Brianna just a few hours before she died, after initially meeting on TikTok where they discussed transitioning and surgeries.
“I pray that her death isn’t meaningless, and for the UK government and society to see the issue and change. We can’t let this happen again,” she said.
In a statement, Brianna’s family said: “Brianna was a much loved daughter, granddaughter, and baby sister. 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. We would like to thank the police for their support, and witnesses for helping with the investigation. The continuation of respect for privacy is greatly appreciated."