Teenagers push for trans rights at Union Square vigil

A vigil-turned-march in Union Square on Friday commemorated the life of Brianna Ghey, a transgender teenager who was killed in England last week, before rallying for increased protections for transgender youth.


Jason Alpert-Wisnia

(Jason Alpert-Wisnia for WSN)

Griffin Eckstein, Contributing Writer

Dozens gathered in Union Square on Friday, Feb. 17 to mourn the death of 16-year-old Brianna Ghey, a transgender girl who died in England earlier this month after being stabbed by two teenagers. While police haven’t described the killing as a hate crime, it is a “line of inquiry” that they are pursuing. Participants, many of whom were trans high school students, listened to speakers and marched to Washington Square Park while chanting in support of transgender rights.

As the crowd marched through the streets, they chanted “trans youth deserve safety” and “trans rights are human rights.”

NYU sophomore Caleb Ferraez joined marchers after he heard them walking down Fifth Avenue and toward the Washington Square Arch. 

“It’s in the news a lot, but it’s not in the news as much as it should be because it does happen so frequently,” Ferraez said. “It’s all too easy to see the hate that is brewing in people’s hearts and in their minds, because they’ve been misled, or they’ve gone down a misguided path and what they’ve seen about or heard about trans people and being transgender in general — it’s horribly upsetting to me.”

Ghey was found with stab wounds in a park in Culcheth, England on Feb. 11. The two 15-year-olds who stabbed her were arrested on suspicion on Feb. 13 and charged with murder on Feb. 15.

The march was one of many around the world in protest of Ghey’s killing, with most others having taken place in Europe. Around 1,000 people gathered on Feb. 17 near the village where Ghey was found.

Ghey’s killing comes as thousands, including the protesters at Union Square, have openly criticized The New York Times over its coverage of trans issues. A Feb. 16 open letter, which was signed by nearly 1,000 members of the media including New York Times contributors, called for better media representation of transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming people. The publication responded to the letter, saying that their reporting attempts to represent ongoing societal debates and they are ultimately proud of their coverage.

Times opinion columnist Pamela Paul has also come under fire for a piece she wrote in defense of transphobic comments posted online by author J.K. Rowling on Feb. 17, six days after Ghey was found. Another letter addressed to the Times, written on the same day by GLAAD — an organization that pushes for better media coverage of LGBTQ+ people — accused the Times of covering “gender diversity with an eerily familiar mix of pseudoscience and euphemistic, charged language.” 

Most participants and speakers at Friday’s vigil were high school students from New York. One of these students, Alba, a high school student, took part in the protest because of the violence and hate that transgender youth face.          

“I’m lucky to live in a place like New York, where it’s more accepted, but there’s still so much violence in this city against trans people,” Alba said. “It’s what motivates you to come out, because you’re scared for yourself and the people around you.”

Contact Griffin Eckstein at [email protected].