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I am sorry, Brianna Ghey

Sorry is not the hardest word

By Rachel RobbinsPublished 12 days ago Updated 12 days ago 4 min read
Brianna Ghey (November 2006 - February 2023) - Rest in Peace

On 11 February 2023, Brianna Ghey was murdered in a premeditated, transphobic attack by two teenagers.

There have been many difficult conversations that have had to be had.

A police officer will have had to walk up to a front door and tell a mother that her daughter was dead.

Another officer will have had to tell two other mothers that their children were being arrested on suspicion of murder.

A mother will have had to tell her wider family that her daughter is dead. That the girl on the news was their niece, their cousin, their granddaughter.

On 20 December 2023, a jury found the two teenagers guilty. They had to sit in a jury room and discuss the brutal ending of a young person’s life and make decisions about two other young people’s future.

On 3rd February 2024, a judge had to sentence two murderers to life imprisonment.


On 7 February 2024, during Prime Minister’s question time, Rishi Sunak joked that Keir Starmer still could not define what a woman was in an exchange that Esther Ghey, the mother of a murdered trans woman was invited to watch.

In reply, noticeably angry, Starmer said: "Of all the weeks to say that, when Brianna's mother is in this chamber. Shame. Parading as a man of integrity when he's got absolutely no responsibility."

Brianna's father Peter Spooner said Mr Sunak's remarks during PMQs were "degrading" and "absolutely dehumanising" and urged him to apologise.

But apparently, “sorry” is the hardest word.

There has been no apology.

There is so much I want to write about this. But my anger is currently not as articulate as I would like.

I want to say that defining women has always been difficult. It is the centrepiece of much post-war feminism, starting with Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. De Beauvoir introduces her text by saying:

If her functioning as a female is not enough to define woman, if we decline also to explain her through “the eternal feminine,” and if nevertheless we admit, provisionally, that women do exist, then we must face the question: what is a woman?

Brianna was functioning as female. I define her as woman. Her murderers wanted to know if she would scream ‘like a girl’. Her killing was transphobic and transphobia is a branch of misogyny.

I want to say that I know that there are discussions we need to be having about trans women, respectful, kind discussions that acknowledge the complexity of inclusion.

I am a cis-woman. I am a white woman. I am a straight woman. I am non-disabled, and neurotypical. Not all female spaces are for me. As a manager at a local authority I set up a space for black workers to meet, and then I walked away because that space was not for me.

Inclusion, includes exclusion. Exclusion is a part of inclusion.

We need to have those conversations.

And yet what we get instead is an angry buzz.


But most of all I want to say sorry Brianna that you were murdered because we aren’t having those conversations with kindness and compassion.

And I want to say sorry to all the other teenagers watching ‘grown-up’ politics behaving so badly, as if their lives don’t matter.

And I want to say I can’t believe that when a parent of a murdered child says he finds words that Sunak has used ‘dehumanising’ that there is no apology.

I’m staggered by the arrogance that won’t ever admit fault.

We only get one life. Brianna’s was ended in pain and fear. Her parents are living with an unimaginable torment. They know their daughter was seen as an experiment, an oddity, a victim. And the father has made one request from a politician – to say sorry.

I can’t imagine knowing that you could take away one of the punctures to a bereaved parents heart by simply saying sorry, that you refuse because… because what? Politics, saving face, lack of humility.

There are so many difficult conversations we need to have about transphobia. But an apology is not that hard.

Saying sorry is what we do when we have hurt someone.

Saying sorry is not that hard.


About the Creator

Rachel Robbins

Writer-Performer based in the North of England. A joyous, flawed mess.

Please read my stories and enjoy. And if you can, please leave a tip. Money raised will be used towards funding a one-woman story-telling, comedy show.

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Comments (4)

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  • Oneg In The Arctic12 days ago

    Thank you for sharing her story, and not letting her be forgotten.

  • Christy Munson12 days ago

    Every living being deserves dignity, love, respect, nourishment, space to live a happy life, and so much more. Brianna Ghey, I'm sorry. So incredibly sorry. Thank you, Rachel Robbins, thank you for sharing so much of Brianna's story using a loving, caring voice.

  • J. Delaney-Howe12 days ago

    As a gay man, who is also the father of a trans teen, I appreciate you writing this. Allies are important. So thank you.

  • Kendall Defoe 12 days ago

    Thank you for writing this. I did not know this story, but there are others every day where friends of mine have been dumped on by society and have no recourse. We should all learn and look harder at ourselves if we want things to change.

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