A Call to Action in the Wake of Nex Benedict’s Death

Nex Benedict.

In an unsettling reminder of the tangible dangers posed by systemic discrimination and targeted hate, the queer community and its allies are mourning the loss of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager from Oklahoma. Nex’s passing on February 8, following an alleged assault in their high school restroom, has sparked a nationwide outcry, prompting responses from the highest echelons of advocacy and government.

The White House, through Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, and leading advocacy organizations have stepped forward to express their sorrow and solidarity with Nex’s loved ones and to underscore the critical need for safe, supportive environments for all youth. Jean-Pierre took to social media, stating, “Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported at school,” a sentiment that reverberates the collective heartbreak and determination within our community.

The backdrop to this tragedy is a landscape marked by legislative hostility towards trans and nonbinary individuals. Oklahoma’s recent enactment of a bathroom bill, which restricts restroom access based on birth certificate sex — strikingly similar to South Side Area School District’s new policy — has amplified the vulnerabilities faced by queer youth, setting the stage for Nex’s bullying experiences since the beginning of the school year.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson described Nex’s death as a “gut-wrenching tragedy,” highlighting the dire consequences of anti-trans sentiment. The organization, alongside the ACLU and Lambda Legal, is calling for a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances leading to Nex’s death, criticizing the school’s inadequate response to the preceding altercation and condemning the wider culture of hate fueled by extremist rhetoric.

Particularly alarming is the appointment of individuals like Chaya Raichik (LibsOfTikTok), known for her anti-LGBTQ+ stance, to influential positions within the state’s educational system. Such appointments serve as endorsements of harmful narratives, further endangering the lives of queer youth.

As our community stands in grief and outrage, the commitment to fight against hate-driven legislation and societal intolerance has never been stronger. The loss of Nex Benedict is not only a personal tragedy for their family and friends but a clarion call for urgent action to protect and uplift every member of our queer community, ensuring that schools and all places become havens of acceptance and understanding.

Rest in Power Nex.