Sophie Gwen WilliamsAge 29
22 May 2021
London (United Kingdom)
Sophie was an artist, activist and musician who died by suicide while on an NHS GIC waiting list. A coroner's report concluded that her treatment contributed to her death.
Hundreds of people have taken to social media over the past week to mourn the death of Sophie Gwen Williams.
The Northern Irish trans activist, artist and musician passed away on Saturday (22 May), according to her close friends and family.
Williams was previously Chair of The 343, a Belfast-based charity and Feminist-led Queer Arts Space. She also co-founded We Exist, an organisation created to provide emergency support for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the UK, as well as 343 radio, the first ever queer radio station in Ireland.
Following her death, We Exist posted a powerful tribute on their social media channels: “We have lost a mentor, leader, beloved friend, sister and inspiration. Her passion, talent, ferocity, commitment to justice, kindness and generosity were unbounded.
“Wherever she went, Sophie brought light to everyone around her. We, Sophie’s chosen family in London, extend our love to all those who loved and cared for her in Belfast and beyond. Sophie gave her all fighting for a world in which trans people can thrive. We will continue her legacy in all the work that we do.
“For the community in London, there will be a vigil in the coming days but for now we need time. We love you Sophie. Rest in power beautiful angel.”
Sophie had been on a waiting list for a first appointment at an NHS Gender Identity Clinic for five and a half years.
A poster with further details surrounding Williams’ death has gone viral online. According to the statement in the poster, she was waiting on an NHS waiting list for five and a half years for a “first assessment” at the Gender Identity Clinic.
“On moving to London from Belfast last summer she was told by the staff at the G.I.C. that she was to wait a further FOUR YEARS for her FIRST assessment. On May 20th 2021 our darling Sophie took her own life,” it reads.
“Losing Sophie is a personal tragedy, but it’s also a public disgrace. How is any working trans* person supposed to survive nearly A DECADE amid a maelstrom of gender dysphoria and the repeated mental health crises that it brings on?
“It’s a howling injustice. The staff of the G.I.C. failed our best friend and creative soulmate. They failed Sophie, and now we will never see her again.”
Today I am thinking of Sophie Gwen Williams, who waited five and a half years for her first assessment at a gender identity clinic, who has now lost her life to the systemic brokenness that is trans*healthcare. Rest in peace— Dáire Lawlor ??[Available for Freelance Projects] (@daire_lawlor) June 3, 2021
A vigil for Sophie was held on Tuesday 25 May 2021.
In March 2023 a coroner's inquest into her death concluded that the long waiting lists to access a Gender Identity Clinic and lack of support for trans individuals on such waiting lists contributed to her death. The coroner concluded that clinics providing gender-identity treatment both should, and have the power to, take action to prevent future deaths. The coroner's report also described “highly inappropriate” remarks made by healthcare professionals to Sophie. Although the nature of these remarks was not elaborated by the coroner, the press release by her partner's solicitors identifies these as misgendering and asking her when she “chose to be trans”.
A statement by one of Sophie's friends on behalf of himself and Sophie's partner reads:
Sophie was an astounding woman. She was a renaissance woman in that she applied her talents across a number of disciplines, all of which she excelled at. She was dedicated to the liberation of all people, a feminist, a believer in a united Ireland, and the co-founder of We Exist, an organisation which supports the trans community with grants towards vital health-care and living expenses. She was kind, gentle and generous and had a deep will to survive. She wanted desperately to engage with any treatment offered to her.
Sophie was failed by the institutions which were meant to provide care for her and which were meant to keep her alive. I hope that the outcome of this inquest prompts BEH Trust to seriously engage with the family and carers of their clients; whether biological or chosen. I hope that they address the transphobia within their institution. I hope that NHS England provides the adequate resources to GICs such that other trans people aren’t stuck on seemingly endless waiting lists to access life saving care. I hope that I will be able to take small comfort in the fact that Sophie’s death will prompt positive change in the institutions that were meant to care for her. I hope that others will not have to die in this way.
Sophie's website is https://www.sophiegwenwilliams.com. There is an audio memorial dedicated to her at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1678315/8595189-in-memory-of-the-incredible-sophie-gwen-williams?play=true.