Opinion

Rishi Sunak's cheap trans joke in front of Brianna Ghey's mum is worse than he could ever realise

It’s about time that we started addressing the real issues that we face as a society and stop making cheap jokes at the expense of trans people – or any other minority

Brianna Ghey, left, and Rishi Sunak, right. Credit: Cheshire police and Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

It sadly seems to be a regular occurrence for politicians to mock minority groups in the House of Commons these days. On 7 February, prime minister Rishi Sunak made crass and inappropriate jokes about trans women as an attempt to take a jab at Labour leader Keir Starmer and his stance on trans rights. 

On a normal day this type of behaviour would not be befitting of a prime minister of any country, but it became particularly nasty and horrible given that Esther Ghey, the mother of Brianna Ghey, was in the chamber. 

Brianna Ghey was a 16-year-old girl who was brutally murdered in a public park in 2023 by her peers. The sentencing of her killers was carried out on 2 February 2024, where they were sentenced to 20 and 22 years in prison. Judge Mrs Justice Yip held in her sentencing that the murder was in part motivated by the fact that Brianna was trans. 

Her mother has appeared in several interviews recently, showing herself to be a remarkable and compassionate woman who loved and supported her daughter. 

Hearing the prime minister mock trans women in the Commons in the light of this murder therefore felt particularly harrowing and sinister. He appears to make no connection between the type of cheap and crass jokes he makes about trans people and the rising anti-hostility in the UK. 

In the UK, hate crimes against transgender people have been increasing, with an increase of 186% in the last five years. These numbers should be enough to make anyone concerned and it’s important to note that these crimes don’t happen in a vacuum.

They happen in a society where anti-trans sentiments have become commonplace, and where expressing transphobic and offensive views about trans people as ‘an opinion’ has become acceptable. It all forms a bigger picture, even if it is ‘just a joke’ in the Commons. It’s a build up, and many parts make a whole.

Because the reality is that people like me can feel the increase in tension and hostility every single day. Many of my friends are afraid to leave their house, afraid they’ll lose their jobs and afraid of doing mundane things like going for a swim, using a public restroom or walking on the street, simply for being a trans person.

It has made the lives of real people exhausting and scary, all because people think that their opinion about our gender and the way we choose to live our lives is a matter of ‘opinion’. 

It’s important to note that trans people will continue to be a part of our society, as they have since the beginning of civilisation. I will continue living my life as who I am, regardless of what Sunak or anyone else thinks about me.


I don’t really care whether or not he believes I am a woman – I am seen and supported by my loving family and friends, and I have lived the majority of my life as who I am. His cheap jabs hold no bearing on my lived experience.

But it would be naive to say that it doesn’t have an affect on how trans people are treated as a population.

It’s about time that we started addressing the real issues that we face as a society, and stop making cheap jokes at the expense of trans people, or any other minority. We cannot move forward as a society if we are led by hostility, exclusion and lack of human empathy for those different to us.

Because if we don’t, we will have a lot more people facing the same fate as Brianna Ghey. May she rest in power. 

Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir is a journalist, author and non-binary trans activist

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