Entertainment And News

We Could've Saved Nex Benedict's Life

Photo: Rachael Warriner / Shutterstock
people gathered in trans protest against anti trans legislation, holding up signs

Police officials and investigators are currently looking into the death of a nonbinary 16-year-old student from Owasso, Oklahoma.

Nex Benedict, a student at Owasso High School, died on February 8 after being attacked by their peers in the school bathroom the day before. Nex's death comes after the state passed a bill that put many trans public school students at risk after being forced to use bathrooms based on the sex that appears on their birth certificates.

Nex Benedict was heavily bullied at school before being fatally assaulted in the girl's bathroom.

On February 7, Nex was physically assaulted in the bathroom by three older classmates and suffered head injuries after the altercation took place, Tulsa NBC affiliate KJRH reported. An anonymous source, who identified themselves as Nex's mother, told KJRH that she believed Nex died from "complications from brain trauma."

Nex's grandmother and adoptive guardian, Sue Benedict, told The Independent that the three older girls allegedly attacked Nex and another transgender student in the bathroom, knocking them to the floor, where Nex hit their head. When she eventually arrived at the school, Benedict found Nex with bruises all over their face and scratches on the back of their head.

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Nex reportedly couldn't even walk to the nurse on their own after the incident, and school staff failed to call an ambulance. Instead, the school informed Benedict that Nex would be suspended for two weeks, and she was forced to take Nex to the Bailey Medical Center in Owasso, where they spoke to a school resource officer and were discharged.

The following day, while Benedict was getting ready to go to an appointment with Nex in Tulsa, Nex collapsed in the living room. By the time emergency services arrived, Benedict said Nex had stopped breathing and they were pronounced dead on the evening of February 8 at the hospital. 

   

   

In a statement to The Independent, the Owasso Police Department said they were "conducting a very active and thorough investigation of the time and events that led up to the death of the student." Owasso PD spokesperson Nick Boatman said that police were awaiting the results of toxicology and autopsy reports from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office before determining whether anyone would be charged.

However, Nex's death is a clear result of anti-trans rhetoric, especially since Nex had been experiencing relentless bullying from other students in the months before their death. It doesn't help that this country's own government doesn't see transgender youth and adults as people who deserve respect and, most of all, protection. 

In the last several years, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed several anti-trans bills, including requiring public school students to use bathrooms that match their sex assigned at birth citing "safety," banning the use of nonbinary gender markers on IDs, restricting gender-affirming care, and banning transgender girls from participating in girls' sports citing "fairness."

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It's disheartening to think about the number of trans youth who don't feel safe living within themselves because of anti-trans legislation.

According to a national survey by GLSEN, 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school, and those who can persevere had significantly lower GPAs, were more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety, and were less likely to plan on continuing their education.

Nex Benedict's Death Proves That We Need To Do More To Protect Our Trans YouthPhoto: Africa images / Canva Pro

Conditions for trans students continue to worsen. The Human Rights Campaign found that trans youth are now less likely than they were when surveyed in 2017 to present in accordance with their gender identity. They also reported being less likely to have their identities affirmed at school. 

In 2023, legislators in nearly every state have introduced over 550 anti-transgender bills — more than in the past eight years combined. Almost 30 such bills have been introduced in Congress.

This onslaught of blatant hate that trans youth are experiencing impacts their mental health, and it doesn't help that even the ones who aren't affected by these legislations, whether it's living in a state that actually allows the proper gender-affirming care or being surrounded by those who accept and love them, they are still internalizing the homophobia and transphobia that exists in every other corner of the country.

They see the way people regard them in the media, and the deaths of trans youth from bullying, suicide, or murder, and they wonder how these things can happen to their own community. Even in the passing of Nex Benedict, the 16-year-old has been constantly misgendered and deadnamed in publications that have been reporting their death.

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We need to do better. We must do better.

The Trevor Project conducted a poll and confirmed what many doctors have already suspected: A mental health crisis is looming among transgender and nonbinary youth as states work to curb access to gender-affirming care and the ability to live in bodies that bring them joy and happiness

"I see multiple patients daily that are suffering with depression and suicide ideation and suicide attempt and anxiety, and my fear is that if we deny them this evidence-based treatment, we’re only going to see massive more patients come to the emergency room," Jesse Martinez Jr., a doctor of psychiatry at Children’s of Alabama, told Axios in May 2023.

An LGBTQ+ advocacy group called Freedom Oklahoma remembered the vibrant soul of Nex Benedict in a social media post. Memories of people who knew Nex were shared and the teenager was described as being a kind person who "always searched for the best in people."

A lover of rock music, Nex found pleasure in things like "The Walking Dead," "Minecraft," reading, and drawing. Nex's family said that they loved to cook and would often make up recipes.

They were a full person, someone who should have had a long and fulfilling life ahead of them, but instead, they were taken too soon.

Every person in this world should be able to live authentically and without fear, no matter what. May Nex's soul find peace despite this world not giving it to them.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress, reach out 24/7 to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing or texting 988, or using chat services to connect to a trained crisis counselor.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.