Warrington ‘more humane’ on trans issues after Brianna Ghey’s murder, says MP | Transgender

Brianna Ghey’s murder has “humanised the debate” around transgender people in her native Warrington, and stopped local Conservative politicians from using trans issues for “culture war” attacks, according to Brianna’s local Labour MP.

“Most people haven’t necessarily met a trans person. And I think what happened to Brianna really gave people someone that they identify with and made them think about some of these issues with an actual human being,” said Charlotte Nichols, elected to parliament in Warrington North in 2019.

Nichols said the discussion about transgender identities is “very abstract” for most people, but that her constituents had collectively grieved for a transgender girl and learned that being trans “isn’t something that’s bad or scary”.

She added: “It has really humanised the debate.”

The MP said her local Conservative opponents would now not dream of following the lead of Rishi Sunak, who joked at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday that Keir Starmer can’t define a woman. Sunak has refused to apologise for the jibe, made as Brianna’s mother was sitting down in the public gallery with Nichols.

“I did previously find myself getting flack from local opposition parties if I raised LGBT issues. They would say, ‘this isn’t important’ or ‘you’re woke’ or whatever, the usual nonsense. That is not a thing that is said any more,” said Nichols. “It would be seen as being hurtful to Brianna’s family and her friends.”

She noted that while she was mocked by some in the national media for a recent parliamentary question about trans people, the local Warrington Guardian reported it supportively.

Nichols asked the minister for women and equalities to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to allow transgender people who are deceased to be legally remembered by the gender they lived by.

The MP said Brianna’s parents, Esther Ghey and Peter Spooner, had set a powerful example by being so open about their love for their daughter, who transitioned when she was 14.

Nichols said: “For a lot of young people who are trans or grappling with their identity, seeing two parents thrown into the national media spotlight talking about her with such love is really powerful.”

At the sentencing of Brianna’s killers last week, Spooner told the court that “being a father of a transgender child was a difficult thing to deal with” but that he loved her. “Even though I grieved the son I lost, I was proud to gain another beautiful daughter,” he said.

Nichols was not on the Labour benches in parliament on Wednesday when the prime minister made his jibe about Starmer’s transgender stance – the Labour leader having once said “99.9% of women don’t have a penis”, as some trans women do.

Nichols was upstairs in the public gallery during PMQ’s, taking her seat alongside Esther Ghey and Emma Mills, the head teacher at Brianna’s school, who were in parliament to meet Starmer and for a debate on mindfulness in schools.

None of the women were sure they had heard Sunak’s remarks correctly, so Nichols texted colleagues downstairs to find out exactly what he had said.

Nichols said Sunak’s jibe was “stupid and pointless”. Esther Ghey “didn’t understand why it was getting brought up when it was irrelevant to what was being discussed”, she added.

Transgender people should not be used for “cheap soundbites”, said Nichols. “We know that this is a real community of people that these words have an impact on. It is incumbent on all of us to do better.”

Since September Esther Ghey has raised £50,000 for her Peace in Mind campaign to bring mindfulness to schools in Warrington. She was in parliament to push for the programme to be rolled out nationally.

At a parliamentary debate on Wednesday, the schools minister, Damian Hinds, praised Ghey for her promotion of “empathy, compassion and resilience”. But he fell short of committing to making mindfulness available everywhere, saying “schools should retain flexibility to choose the interventions that suit their pupils and their local context, supported by high-quality evidence and guidance.”

The first anniversary of Brianna’s murder on Sunday will be marked by a vigil in Warrington. Esther will be speaking and students from Birchwood community high school, where Brianna was a pupil, will perform music in her memory.

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