Portsmouth Cathedral hosts Brianna Ghey vigil

Over 200 people gathered in Portsmouth to remember and mourn the death of the trans teen.

The Very Rev Dr Anthony Cane, Dean of Portsmouth, said ‘Let us come together as a community to remember Brianna and stand in solidarity during this difficult time.’

Queer All Year, the local social activism group, invited all who mourn to join them at the Cathedral, adding: 'Our community is in mourning and for those who want the space to be held for mourning and remembrance, it is here for you'. 

Two members of the Portsmouth Youth Cabinet attended the candlelit vigil, and wrote the following piece.

Image: Habibur Rahman

Holding a Vigil for Brianna Ghey

On Thursday 16th February, a vigil was held for Brianna Ghey. The Portsmouth Cathedral was filled with hundreds of people from all walks of life, gathering to remember the 16-year-old girl who was murdered in a public park on Saturday afternoon.

People were invited to light candles and lay flowers. The vigil began with a prayer, and people were invited to speak.

“It’s wonderful we’ve been given this space for our voices to be heard,” said the first speaker. She talked about Brianna as an inspiration for trans youth, with her following on TikTok showing how far the impact of one’s life can extend, and how much she would have been an inspiration for many young people struggling for the right to live as who they are. Several moving poems were recited, including ‘The life that I have’ by Leo Marks, ‘Stop all the Clocks’ by W.H Auden and an original piece by someone who attended (CP notes that this was Courtnee Warrican reading her partner Lauren's piece of original work).

Many of those present didn’t know Brianna, but her death had an impact far beyond personal connection. “You might not have known her, but it’s personal, isn’t it?” said Cllr Chris Attwell, Cabinet Member for Communities and Central Services. In reference to the teenagers charged with the crime, a speaker emphasised that “they were led there, and we need to find out how they got there.”

“People act on hate,” he continued, “but as a society, we are not responsible - we do not create the hate - but we are responsible for ensuring this doesn’t happen again.” He went on to say that politicians dehumanising trans people and using the trans “debate” as a divisive political tool has fuelled a rise of hatred and misunderstanding. This violent behaviour is an inevitable consequence. In the words of the next speaker, “This is not the first time someone has died because of their identity, but it has to be the last.”

He finished by saying, “I don’t want to light candles, and pray and wait for next time.” By this point, the candelabra at the front of the cathedral had overflowed; the Reverend laid out tinfoil to provide extra space and the light continued to grow as the night went on. The final speaker concluded, “For all trans people in this city, you are not alone - we are a family.”

Following the event, Queer All Year said: 'You beautiful people, 220 of you who joined us and @portsmouthprideuk at @portsmouthcathedral to mourn the loss of Brianna Ghey tonight, lay flowers and light candles. Tonight was for our mourning, tomorrow will be for our anger and we will share details of other events when we can. For now, Brianna can rest in power'. 

The Cathedral said: ‘We stand in solidarity with our trans siblings, and the LGBTQI+ community. We are proudly members of Inclusive Church and welcome all through our doors with open arms and open hearts. Our ministry team continue to be on hand for anyone needing pastoral support, or just wanting to chat - please get in touch. ’ 

By Abi (She/Her)

Volunteer Copywriter, Portsmouth Pride