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Vigil for Brianna Ghey

Updated: Mar 17, 2023




On Saturday the 18th of February 2023, the Leeds vigil for Brianna Ghey was held in park square.



I firstly want to acknowledge that not everyone from the trans community, or people of other intersecting marginal identities would have been able to safely attend the vigil. We love you all and hope that you are managing to process your feelings around Brianna’s death and that you feel held; No matter where you are, whether you are out or not, you are such an important part of this world. This post is for you.


The crowd began to arrive from 2.30pm and built up to a strong, solid, colourful circle all around the green at Park Square. People came and went throughout. There were hundreds of trans people and allies who turned up to pay their respects, with roughly 700 present by 4pm. It was indescribably beautiful and moving to stand in solidarity amongst you all.


Prior to starting, we set up the memorial bench, created designated safeguarding areas, and coordinated with other teams who were present on the day, including Leeds Mind and Angels of Freedom, and members from the Yorkshire Trans Choir.

Roadblock sound system arrived and they set up the sound system.


We handed out lyrics to the song that the trans voices choir would sing. They are as follows:


“I am a tower of strength within and without

I am a tower of strength within.


Let all burdens fall from my shoulders

All anxieties slip from my mind


Let every terf be silent

Every terf fuck off.”


We had only printed 200 copies, assuming that we would have enough. We were very wrong. Apologies to anyone who wasn’t able to see any lyrics in front of them. Thank you to all who raised their voices.


We first heard speeches from a local MP, Mermaids UK and our coordinator Tom. We then opened the floor to anyone who wanted to speak. We didn’t count the amount of trans people who came up to speak, but there were many - several hours worth - and everyone spoke with such power. It’s honestly impossible to capture the feelings of trans people speaking out about their anger, their love, their grief, their joy, their beliefs: Their poetry. My friend who spoke said “we need to remember that we [as trans people] are poetry”.


We are so grateful for each and every one of you that spoke. One of the speakers that stood out to me was a 15 year old trans person who spoke near the end. The poignancy and beauty of their speech was beyond words. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be a young trans person at a time like this. There were a few speakers who were around the age of Brianna. One speaker said “we’re right in our anger and we’re also right in our hope.” What an incredibly empowered and wise thing for a 15 year old to share. I hope every cis person who attended the vigil, or who read the news of Brianna’s murder, can think about how they can learn from and support the trans youth of today. They are precious gifts.


The speeches continued until around 6.30pm and the majority of the remaining crowd began to disperse shortly after. We re-distributed the flowers and mementos from the memorial bench and speaker stand to a nearby tree. We lit a few of the candles and said our quiet goodbye’s to Brianna.


I didn’t feel able to speak at the vigil, as I didn’t really have any words for my feelings. Often I write poetry, but when I found out the news of Brianna’s murder, I wrote only this :


“Sometimes, when I feel like the world is failing me

Words fail me also.

The poeticism of life and language is stripped away.

When a trans sibling is murdered…”


Sometimes it feels like the darkness contained within this act is too much to bear, that we will never see the light of hope. I will lean on the words of others, hopefully as a reminder that there is always light, “if not here, then somewhere”. Here is a passage from James Baldwin’s essay from ‘Nothing Personal’ *:


“One discovers the light in darkness, that is what darkness is for; but everything in our lives depends on how we bear the light. It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is light somewhere, to know that in oneself, waiting to be found, there is light.”


And here is a poem by Eve. L Ewing that I have on my wall and (try to) read every day.


‘Affirmation.


Speak this to yourself

until you know it is true.

I believe that I woke up today

and my lungs were working,

miraculously,

my voice can sing and murmur and ask,

miraculously.

My hands may shake, but they can hold

me, or another.

My blood still carries the gifts of the air

from my heart to my brain,

miraculously.

Put a finger to my wrist or my temple

And feel it: I am magic. Life

and all its good and bad and ugly things

scary things which I would like to forget

beautiful things which I would like to remember

-- the whole messy lovely true story of myself

pulses within me.

I believe that the sun shines

if not here, then somewhere.

Somewhere it rains,

and things will grow green and wonderful.

Somewhere inside me, too, it rains,

and things will grow green and wonderful.

Sometimes my insides rain from the inside out.

And then I know

I am alive

I am alive

I am alive’


Thank you again to everyone who attended. Rest in power Brianna.



Written by Flo Gillard




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