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The hate that killed Nex Benedict

The Benedict Family via the 19TH
HATE KILLS – Transgender Oklahoma teen Nex Benedict took his own life following a transphobic attack in a school bathroom.

Notes: Close friends of Nex Benedict told NBC News that he primarily used he/him pronouns but also used they/them pronouns. For the clarity of this article, I will use he/him pronouns to refer to Benedict.

Nex Benedict, a transgender student at Owasso High School, was pronounced dead on February 8, 2024. Benedict was just 16-years-old. 

The day prior, Benedict had been involved in a fight with three older girls. According to Benedict, the altercation began after the girls made fun of the way he and his friends were laughing. In response, Benedict threw water on one of the girls. The girls retaliated by beating Benedict, where Nex reported blacking out until the fight was broken up. The students involved were then taken to the assistant principal’s and nurse’s offices where statements were collected and the nurse recommended that Benedict be taken to the hospital.

Later that afternoon, Sue Benedict, Benedict’s legal guardian, took Nex to the ER. Ms. Benedict requested that an officer meet them at the hospital. The officer’s body camera footage shows the officer warning the Benedicts that if Sue Benedict pressed charges, Nex could be seen as the aggressor and be charged with assault for throwing water on the girls. Sue Benedict decided not to press charges and instead asked the officer to look into the actions taken by the school immediately after the fight.

The next evening, Nex was rushed back to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. While Benedict’s official cause of death was not announced for over a month, officials have recently ruled his death a suicide.

With this tragic news, it is clear what led to Nex Benedict’s death: hate. Benedict’s death comes less than a year after the tragic death of Brianna Ghey who was murdered in the UK for her transgender identity by two teenagers currently serving their 20-year sentences. 

Nex had reported being bullied at his school, Owasso High School, for months before the incident. But the girls who bullied Benedict were not compelled to bully him all on their own. In reality, as Sean Cummings, the vice-mayor of The Village, a suburb of Oklahoma City, told the Oklahoma State Board of Education, they were “emboldened” by the narratives and hatred disseminated by the adults around them about LGBTQ+ people. 

One of these “adults” is Ryan Walters, Oklahoma Superintendent. Walters had repeatedly voiced that he believes, “When you are born, you have a gender: you either have an XX chromosome or an XY chromosome.” Clearly, Walters didn’t pay attention in science class. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines gender as, “the cultural roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes expected of people based on their sex,” and sex as “biological status as male, female, or something else. Sex is assigned at birth and associated with physical attributes, such as anatomy and chromosomes.”

Walters also supports policies that ban books with LGBTQ+ themes or characters including “Kite Runner” ​​ by Khaled Hosseini and “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls. 

Even though tweens and teens often appear to pay no attention to adults, the truth is: children are listening. Walters’s and others’ harmful rhetoric and anti-LGBTQ+ policies influence students like those who bullied Nex. When those adults are school leaders, it makes an already scary place, high school, terrifying. According to the Trevor Project, an American nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention amongst members of the LGBTQ+ community, it is “estimated that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ young people (ages 13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S. — and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.”

Another “adult” contributing to the hostile environments in Oklahoma high schools is Chaya Raichik. Raichik was appointed to the State Library Board this year. Raichik is a former real estate agent who is famous for her X account “Libs of TikTok,” which currently has 2.9M followers. Raichik has no background in education or library science and lives in Brooklyn, NY, not Oklahoma. Her recent experience with books involved a relentless campaign to ban books in schools across the country.

On her account, Raichik targets schools and teachers who support their LGBTQ+ students. And people are listening. USA Today noted a pattern of “dozens of bomb threats and death threats to hospitals, libraries, and schools — including several about Oklahoma institutions…documented nationwide in the last two years. In each case, the target of the threats had been targeted in the days before by posts from Libs of Tiktok.” 

Unsurprisingly, Owasso schools were also the victims of Raichik’s attacks. In 2022, Raichik slammed a teacher at Owasso Middle School, seeking to support his students, who said, “If your parents don’t accept you for who you are, f*** them. I’m your parent now.” Nex Benedict and his peers would have been students at that middle school in 2022. They would have been engulfed in the rumors propagated by Raichick through her X account, that teacher was grooming students. They would have seen the teacher resign. The children were listening.

Even the governor of Oklahoma contributes to the dangerous environments in Oklahoma schools for LGBTQ+ students. According to ABC News, Gov. Kevin Stitt passed, “a bill that requires public school students to use only the bathroom that matches the sex listed on their birth certificate; a ban on the use of nonbinary gender markers on IDs; restrictions on gender-affirming care for trans youth; and bans on transgender girls participating in girls’ sports, citing concerns about fairness.” Adults like Gov. Still have been promoting these so-called “bathroom bills” all over the country. And Nex and the girls who attacked him in the girl’s bathroom were probably listening

Many will argue that without the official autopsy, we cannot know what “caused” Nex Benedict’s death.  And whatever the physical cause, some will refuse to recognize the correlation between this rhetoric with this tragedy. But the hateful narrative pushed by these adults and the hateful policies reinforcing those narratives led to the fight in the bathroom. It led to a kid blacking out. A kid feeling unsafe. It shouldn’t take the death of a 16-year-old for it to be known that their words are wrong. 

Even if they never lift a finger, people spewing homophobias have blood on their hands: Benedict’s blood, Ghey’s Blood, the blood of every LGBTQ+ child who has been murdered, and the blood of every LGBTQ+ child who has taken their own life. Because when people talk, particularly those with power or a platform: adults are listening; children are listening. And children are dying.

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Nora Parsons
Nora Parsons, Written Content Editor
  • 2023-24: Written Content Editor
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