Spotlight Shines on Oklahoma’s Anti-LGBTQ+ Agenda

Nex Benedict.

I wish I did not know the name Nex Benedict. At least, I wish I didn’t know the name for the reason that so many of us now do.

On Feb. 7, Benedict was beaten by three students in a bathroom at Owasso High School in Owasso, Oklahoma. The next day, Benedict died.

“This incident has shed light on the harsh realities faced by transgender, nonbinary, gay, and otherwise queer students in Oklahoma, particularly against the backdrop of anti-transgender rhetoric and legislation by state officials,” reports The Advocate. “A law enacted in 2022 mandating students to use restrooms corresponding to their birth certificate sex and a proposed bill aiming to ban discussions of gender identity and sexuality in schools contribute to a hostile atmosphere for students in the state.”

And if all of that wasn’t enough, do you know who the Oklahoma Department of Education appointed to the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Library Media Advisory Committee? Chaya Raichik, the person behind the anti-LGBTQ+ social media account Libs of TikTok. As The Advocate points out, Raichik does not live in Oklahoma and does not have a background in education or children’s development.

Truly, she’s the worst person you could possibly have making decisions about what your kids can and can’t read.

Ryan Walters, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, posted on X, “No one has done more to expose what the radical left is all about than Chaya Raichik and Libs of TikTok. Her’s is a powerful voice to protect Oklahoma kids from porn in schools and woke indoctrination. I’m proud to have her on our team.”

This is the environment in which 16-year-old Benedict was beaten in a bathroom for the crime of being nonbinary or transgender (media accounts differ on how Benedict identified, with some reporting that Benedict was a two-spirit person of indigenous Choctaw descent). It was a disaster in the making for LGBTQ+ kids, as people had warned.

One of those people is Sean Cummings, identified by The Advocate as an Oklahoma City business owner and local politician. He attended a February Oklahoma Department of Education meeting and did not shy away from his anger. A video of Cummings was posted to X on Feb. 22 by user @TizzyEnt.

“Three older girls don’t just jump a 16-year-old in the bathroom for no apparent reason, especially when they are of the alphabet community, who you personally have attacked ever since you ran for office. And you brought in the chief attacker of this, Chaya Raichik. Ok? It’s on you,” Cummings says.

Gotta say, I’m not wild about the term “alphabet community,” but his heart is in the right place.

“I think what you’re looking at now is a federal lawsuit for each one of you personally. I hope it happens because it’ll bankrupt you,” Cummings continues.  He says that the board has “legal culpability” for its pattern of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. “You have actual blood on your hands.”

Regarding Benedict’s death, Cummings says, “We’ll see who gets charged and how many families lose their children to prison,” highlighting the fact that there are no winners when the flames of anti-trans hatred are fanned. Everybody loses. Some more than others, mind you.

The Department of Education Secretary Education Miguel A. Cardona has opened an investigation into Benedict’s death in response to a letter from the Human Rights Campaign.

“All people — including transgender and gender-expansive youth like Nex — deserve to be accepted, seen, and safe, particularly in our nation’s schools,” wrote HRC President Kelley Robinson in a letter to Cardona. “However, efforts to stoke hate and discrimination across the country are having a direct, negative impact on the lives of trans and gender-expansive students. This includes young students like Nex, who face harsh social and public environments largely influenced by this discourse that undermines their lives.”

And kids in Oklahoma have it worse than in a lot of other states.

“Oklahoma has considered more than 85 anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation since 2015, passing seven into law,” outlined Robinson. “This gives it the dubious distinction of being one of the nation’s top five promulgators of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination following Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Iowa.”

Not great company to be in. Not at all.

Reach out to the transgender people in your life and let them know you stand with them, especially the young people who are no doubt feeling this tragedy so acutely. This is a scary time and no one should have to go through it alone.

If you are in crisis and need someone to talk to, visit The Trevor Project at thetrevorproject.org/get-help to connect to a crisis counselor 24/7, 365 days a year, from anywhere in the U.S via text, chat or phone. The Trevor Project is 100% confidential and 100% free.

D'Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living life with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter.