On the evening of Thursday, 16th of February, a vigil was held at Portsmouth Cathedral in memory of our murdered trans sister Brianna Ghey. I was contacted two days earlier and given the opportunity to speak, which I accepted. I arrived about twenty minutes early with a small bunch of tulips and a few tears in my eyes. In reality, I am not great with sad occasions, and I wondered if I would break down. I was met by a lovely lady priest, introduced to the organiser, and sat at the front along with some other speakers. A photographer from the local newspaper silently, reverently took images (picture credit).
Laid in front of all the chairs on the floor was a giant Progress flag, a metal globe to hold candles, a picture of Brianna in a frame, and some flowers.
People just kept coming, and all the chairs quickly filled, so volunteers started placing more chairs (which were stacked at the rear of the Cathedral) out – the vigil started seven minutes late.
Sitting in silence was very peaceful, and albeit I’m no longer a Christian, I must admit I said a silent prayer for Brianna and her family.
To my right, an elderly lady walking with a stick fell whilst negotiating some steps; fortunately, she was being assisted by a priest, and was unhurt.
People of all ages were in attendance – folks likely in their eighties to kids who probably had not reached their tenth birthday. We were invited to light candles, and a long orderly queue formed. I watched a young lad in a wheelchair be assisted to light a candle. He was obviously struggling but equally determined to light a candle on his own.
Numerous speakers spoke in remembrance of Brianna in a vigil like no other I have ever attended, and my words can’t describe what I felt nor what others felt.
But I can tell you what I said.
With love, Steph x
Thank you for coming tonight, and I am very sorry to meet you all in such tragic circumstances.
We mourn the loss of our beautiful trans sister with love and admiration, even though we may not have known her personally. She was a sparkling light for those around her in her daily life and for thousands of young people on social media.
Brianna was just 16 years old.
But she knew who she was, what she was doing and where she was going.
She was not just blazing her own path…. but helping so many others who perhaps were struggling with their own gender identity.
And we know in this country that’s a big deal because help for trans kids in relation to medical services is nigh on impossible to access. In these circumstances, Brianna’s support was invaluable.
I remember when I was sixteen years old, I had so many dreams, and I am sure Brianna had dreams too. Dreams that won’t be fulfilled because of a senseless act of violence that appears to have been planned.
Brianna’s family and friends loved her dearly, and they will be affected by her loss for their lifetime – and for sure, within our loving trans community, Brianna will never be forgotten.
But at this saddest of times, can I also ask you to give a thought to those who found Brianna and the medical teams who attended? I would ask you to think of the police officers who somehow had to tell Brianna’s parents that their loving daughter they described as beautiful, witty, hilarious, strong, fearless, one of a kind, was lost to them personally …and indeed to all of humanity.
There are no winners… and one courageous young lady has lost her right to dream.
I want to end with a poem that says it all about people who devote their lives to helping others and the legacy they leave because Brianna has done precisely that.
The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.