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Everything We Need To Know About What Happened To Nex Benedict

By Brian Richards | Social Media | February 23, 2024 |

By Brian Richards | Social Media | February 23, 2024 |

WARNING: As you can tell from the headline, this article is not going to be easy or pleasant to read, as it discusses acts of violence against members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

On February 7, a nonbinary student at Owasso High School named Nex Benedict (who used they/them pronouns) and a trans student got into a physical altercation with three older female students on school property in the girls’ restroom. According to Nex’s mother, Sue Benedict, the three girls had attacked Nex so intensely that they were bruised over their face and eyes, scratches were left on the back of their neck, and they hit their head on the floor after being knocked to the ground. No staff members at Owasso High School contacted the police or an ambulance in response, and Nex’s parents were later informed that Nex would be placed under a two-week suspension. Nex (a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) was brought to a medical facility for treatment later that day and returned home for some rest and recovery.

The following day, as Nex was getting dressed and preparing to attend an appointment in Tulsa, they suddenly collapsed in the living room. When medics arrived and saw they weren’t breathing, Nex was brought to the St. Francis Pediatric Emergency Room, where they were pronounced dead.

Since the beginning of the 2023 school year, which was a few months after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law that required public school students to use the restrooms that matched the sex listed on their birth certificates, Nex was on the receiving end of bullying and harassment from their fellow students.

From The Independent:

Ms. Benedict said she first became aware that Nex was being bullied at school in early 2023.

“They’d go straight to their room and put it on their radio, and I’d say ‘OK you gotta decompress for a little bit, and then come out and talk about it’.”

[She] would encourage the 16-year-old to rise above their tormentors.

“I said ‘you’ve got to be strong and look the other way, because these people don’t know who you are’,” Ms. Benedict told The Independent in a phone interview.

“I didn’t know how bad it had gotten.”

A couple of weeks later, news of Nex Benedict’s death began to spread across the Internet. There were many celebrities and notable organizations who expressed their grief and sorrow about what happened. There were also a lot of strangers on social media who expressed those same feelings, as well as anger for what happened to Nex, and for how it was being reported in the media. Some news publications didn’t write any articles at all about the incident, and others that did, not only misgendered Nex but also relied heavily on passive voice to seemingly avoid having to touch upon the violence and discrimination Nex had experienced before their death. It wasn’t until they received intense backlash from social media that more details were added to their articles about Nex, and about what happened to them, though there was also some insistence by reporters that the articles were missing details because they were still investigating and gathering information and didn’t want to jump to any conclusions simply because of pressure from social media.

Nex Benedict’s all-too-brief life was a painful reminder of how other young people in the LGBTQIA+ community whose lives were violently cut short. Brandon Teena, who was beaten, sexually assaulted, and then murdered by two people who discovered that he was trans. Matthew Shepard, who was robbed, beaten, tortured, and left to die before succumbing to his wounds nearly a week later. Gwen Araujo, who was murdered by four men after two of those men discovered that she was trans. Shawmaynè Giselle Marie, who was shot and killed after a recent argument with her assailant. London Price, who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in her own home, and in front of her grandmother. O’Shae Sibley, who was stabbed to death during a confrontation with some young men at a gas station. Brianna Ghey, who was stabbed to death by two teenagers. I could stand in front of a microphone from Sunday morning to Saturday night so that I could say the names and causes of death for every other LGBTQIA+ person who has been murdered, and I still wouldn’t be able to scratch the surface. Especially when these are just the murders that have been reported and that we know about.

The recent law in Oklahoma about public school restrooms and who is permitted to use them hasn’t been the only thing to help create such a hostile and dangerous environment for the LGBTQIA+ community. In April of 2022, a teacher at Owasso High School named Tyler Wrynn resigned from his position, even though he was incredibly well-liked by his students. The reason for his resignation, which Nex was also upset about? Wrynn was seen in TikTok videos of him teaching his students, in which he expressed his support for any students who are queer (“If your parents don’t accept you for who you are, f—k them.”), and was also seen on video expressing his disgust at another recent bill signed into law that would allow certain books to be banned from public libraries. This didn’t make some parents happy, and Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters was so unhappy with Wrynn’s conduct that he accused him of trying to indoctrinate children and implied that he had no business being a teacher for sharing such disrespectful views about what children should learn, and how they should live.

Another person who is guilty of repeatedly adding gasoline to this particular fire: Chaya Raichik, the former real estate agent who now runs the far-right social media platform, Libs of TikTok. Most recently, Raichik has used Libs of TikTok to incite harassment and violence against hospitals, teachers, principals at public schools, and any event where drag queens are expected to be present, particularly Drag Queen Story Hours where drag queens read books to children in attendance, and which often results in Proud Boys and their ilk arriving at these locations for intimidation purposes. Her conduct has even encouraged Walters to hire Raichik to serve on Oklahoma’s Education Library Media Advisory Committee, even though Raichik has no background whatsoever in education, and doesn’t even live in Oklahoma. Raichik and Libs of TikTok have recently been blamed for contributing to the hatred and discrimination that led to Nex’s death. Not surprisingly, Raichik has used her Twitter account to insist that she is completely blameless, and that what’s being said about why Nex has died is nothing but misinformation.

“There is no evidence the student was targeted because of her nonbinary identity…Please share the information on how you “know this is a direct result of hateful rhetoric”? If you have information you aren’t sharing, you probably should because the police can’t confirm if she was targeted because she was nonbinary. I assume you know something they don’t?”

Raichik spewing inflammatory accusations that regularly put people’s lives and well-being in jeopardy. Harry Potter author-turned-transphobic scat-muncher J.K. Rowling donating 70,000 pounds of her money to a fundraiser held by her fellow TERFs the women’s rights group For Women Scotland. Nassau County (thanks to Republican Bruce Blakeman) announcing that they are banning trans women and girls from competing in any sports events in their facilities. If you were to ask them and their supporters why any of this is being done, their response would be about how children need to be protected from those who would sexualize them and be predatory towards them. (In Rowling’s case, and that of her supporters, it’s to protect women from having their femininity taken away from trans women and being completely invalidated.)

But it’s crystal-clear to anyone with common sense that none of this has anything to do with children and everything to do with using them as an excuse to be as selfish, greedy, and horrible as they want. Physically and verbally attacking the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies, and trying to erase them from existence; banning books from libraries, and preventing teachers from discussing anything related to Critical Race Theory (or anything else that doesn’t meet their approval); and undermining child labor laws so that kids as young as 13 years old are not just working, but working dangerous jobs such as slicing and packing meat in factories. These same parents have nothing to say and are nowhere to be found when their children are groomed and sexually assaulted by cops, firefighters, youth pastors, youth coaches, children’s camp directors, and their very own friends and family members. Mostly because their attention and their wrath are more focused on going after those damn pronouns that they see in other people’s Twitter bios. Chaya Raichik, Ryan Walters, Kevin Stitt, and others like them don’t give a damn about children or about protecting them from the dangers of the world. To paraphrase Michael Douglas in The American President, they only care about two things: making us afraid of it, and telling us who is to blame for it.

The Owasso Police Department recently released this statement about the death of Nex Benedict:

“While the investigation continues into the altercation. Preliminary information from the medical examiner’s office is that a complete autopsy was performed and indicated that the decedent did not die as a result of trauma. At this time, any further comments on the cause of death are currently pending until toxicology results and other ancillary testing results are received. The official autopsy report will be available at a later date.”

Which elicited this response from attorneys representing Nex’s family:

“While various investigations are still pending, the facts currently known by the family, some of which have been released to the public, are troubling at best. We urge those tasked with investigating and prosecuting all potentially liable parties to do so fully, fairly and expediently. Notwithstanding, the family is independently interviewing witnesses and collecting all available evidence.”

In a move that is reminiscent of Killers of the Flower Moon, and how the women of the Osage nation pleaded with the government for the FBI (then known as the BOI) to investigate the crimes being committed against them, Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, has requested that the Department of Justice get involved and start their own investigation into Nex’s death, as there is very little confidence that the Owasso Police Department will give this matter the attention and efficiency it deserves.

Nex’s parents released this statement in response to the massive outpouring of support they have received:

The family graciously accepts and appreciates the outpouring of support, thoughts, and prayers from across the nation for the loss of their child. in the coming weeks and months, they request that their privacy be respected, and that they be allowed to grieve and deal with their new reality — a life without Nex. The Benedicts know all too well the devastating effects of bullying and school violence, and pray for meaningful change wherein bullying is taken seriously, and no family has to deal with another preventable tragedy. Lastly, the family asks that any threats, or acts of violence against students, employees, and personnel, or any other persons associated with the Owasso Public Schools, cease immediately.

Nex Benedict should still be alive today, and what happened to them is another painful reminder of how unsafe this world can be, and often is, for LGBTQIA+ people of all ages, especially children. For far too many of them, especially those who are of color, there is no comfort to be found in telling them that “it gets better,” because as we’ve seen in recent years, it has only gotten worse when it comes to how this country treats their community. Children who don’t know any better, and adults who damn well should, are constantly letting queer children know that there is no future for them as queer adults, and that they don’t even deserve to have one. And until adults stop being encouraged by politicians and celebrities to proudly swaddle themselves in ignorance while expecting their children to do the same, there will be more news stories that make us learn the names of children like Nex Benedict for all of the wrong reasons.

May Nex Benedict rest in peace, and my condolences to their family and friends.