Brianna Ghey was a 16-year-old transgender girl from Cheshire, England. Her online friends told Rolling Stone she was unapologetically open about her gender identity, and she garnered a large following on TikTok under the username gingerpuppyx. She was a fan of video games like Roblox and Minecraft. One friend described her as “ultra feminine” and said her favorite color was pink. In short, she was a typical teenage girl.
She was also bullied in school for being openly trans. And it seems this bullying reached a climax when Ghey was found stabbed to death in a park on Feb. 11. Two 15-year-olds were arrested, and while local police initially stated they didn’t “believe it was a hate crime,” they have begun investigating it as such.
I open this column with this anecdote about the killing of Brianna Ghey because I think it’s a microcosmic story of the brutal and very real effects of transphobia. It comes as we are seeing transphobia become more mainstream than ever both in the media and in politics.
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Let me make one thing clear at the outset: transphobes want nothing more than the total eradication of transgender individuals. Whatever they may mask as some righteous clarion call for “mental healthcare” or “parental rights” ultimately comes down to the fact they don’t want transgender people to exist.
Understanding where their hatred comes from becomes much easier when you keep this simple fact in mind.
Let’s use Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a case study for this, though I’m sure he’d just love that: in January, DeSantis issued a request for state universities to provide the government with the ages and numbers of any student who has received treatment for gender dysphoria. I mean, my God, which of the ten stages of genocide is Florida on at this point?
And, seeing the political success of Desantis’ programs in Florida, Indiana lawmakers have begun crafting their own “slate of hate,” including a bill that would require teachers to inform parents if children ask to be referred to by a different name or set of pronouns. I shouldn’t even have to describe the grave implications of transgender children being outed to potentially unsupportive parents.
But, make no mistake: transphobic hatred doesn’t just exist here in the States. And now it’s time to bring up one of the many elephants in the room, and that is J.K. Rowling and trans-exclusionary radical feminists more generally.
TERFs reject transgender women from the feminist movement on the basis that they don’t believe they’re truly women. Obviously, this notion is offensive on several levels, but it has nonetheless gained a significant online following, with Rowling often at the forefront. Rowling claims to “know and love trans people,” but has made it clear she chooses to differentiate between trans and cisgender women — simply put, she doesn’t believe trans women are actually women.
Further, Rowling has written that she believes trans youth “grow out of their dysphoria” and that hormone therapy is “a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people.” She’s also perpetuated the long disproven idea that men are posing as trans women to commit sexual assaults in women’s restrooms. However, as abhorrent and harmful as this rhetoric is, Rowling has her supporters, including New York Times columnist Pamela Paul.
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On Feb. 16, the Times published a column by Paul titled “In Defense of J.K. Rowling,” just one day after the publication received two separate open letters condemning it for its anti-trans coverage. As the title suggests, Paul’s column is simply a mouthpiece for Rowling’s ideas and bears no worth being recounted here. But the fact the newspaper of record chose to publish a story from one of its top columnists defending one of the most currently prominent transphobes speaks volumes.
Maybe the Onion was right in observing that it’s “journalism’s sacred duty to endanger the lives of as many trans people as possible.”
One doesn’t need to be transgender or a member of the LGBTQ community to understand that the bigoted hatred and vitriol spewed toward trans people on a daily basis — along with the legislation designed specially to restrict their rights — are a terrifying human rights violation, full stop.
Until the international community refuses to tolerate the intolerant, deaths like Brianna Ghey’s are only going to continue happening, as they have been for many years.
Joey Sills (he/him) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.