Remembering Nex Benedict

A call for justice and change after the Owasso tragedy.
Nex Benedict was 16. They loved Minecraft, cooking, friendship bracelets and their cat named Zeus. They were a straight-A student, a kid whose family described them as having “a light in them that was so big and bright and beautiful.” This is how we should be remembering them — not as another murdered trans kid in our statistics about murdered trans kids, but as a person full of light and love and dreams.
But we should not have to remember them at all because Nex Benedict should be alive right now.
Nex Benedict deserved to live and they deserved to live in a state and a world where their health, safety and happiness were protected and prioritized. They deserved to live in a place where they could live authentically without fear and without the threat of violence.
But that is not the reality Nex lived in. It is not the reality that any trans-Oklahoman lives in. We live in a reality where Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed multiple bills attacking the rights of transgender Oklahomans, including banning gender-affirming care for minors and prohibiting transgender students from using restrooms that align with their gender. State Superintendent Ryan Walters has called transgender people “dangerous” and stated that “Radical gender ideology has no place in our classrooms.” Under his supervision, the state department of education has referred to transgender students as a threat in schools.
State officials have spent years spouting dangerous, violent rhetoric about transgender students. This sort of transphobia is not only normalized in Oklahoma schools, it is promoted and supported. Is it any wonder that Nex’s family reported that Nex had been bullied for their gender identity for over a year before they were killed? In his statement addressing Nex’s death, Gov. Stitt said that “bullies must be held accountable,” but how do you hold students accountable for transphobia when the governor and state superintendent are constantly engaging in transphobic hate speech?
Our current state administration has created a world where being trans can be a death sentence. In the week since Nex’s death, calls from queer Oklahoma youth to LGBTQ+ hotlines like the Rainbow Youth Project have tripled. In over two-thirds of those phone calls, the child in question brought up Nex’s death and mentioned feeling unsafe at their schools. Around 85% reported that they had faced bullying and harassment due to their gender identity or sexuality. Lance Preston, who runs the hotline, says that when these distressed queer youth call, the “number one reason is ‘my government hates me,’ ‘my school doesn’t want me,’ ‘they don’t want me to use the bathroom,’ ‘they don’t want me to read a book.’ ”
This is the outcome of transphobic policy and rhetoric. As Rep. Mauree Turner put it, “Nex’s death is a direct result of a failed administration in a public school that didn’t value the life of a trans student. A failed administration that was empowered by a failed local government who has created open season and more specifically a trans genocide in Oklahoma.”
This is the world trans-Oklahoma youth are living in. A world where trans kids are murdered just for daring to be open about who they are. A world in which our state and local leaders promote policies that lead to greater discrimination and bigotry against trans people. This is the world Nex lived and died in.
And if we don’t do something to fix it, they will not be the only one.
If you would like to get in contact with state and local officials in order to demand justice for Nex, their contact information is listed below.
Owasso High School Principal: Tiffani Cooper,
Owasso High School Superintendent: Margaret Coates,
Owasso State Representative: Mark Vancuren,
State Superintendent: Ryan Walters,
State Governor: Kevin Stitt,
And if you would like a script to use in emails, feel free to use the following:
[Insert Name],
My name is [insert name] and I am a [student, constituent, concerned Oklahoman, etc.] and I am horrified to hear about the tragic passing of Nex Benedict. I am even more appalled at how the school district and law enforcement have handled this tragedy. A child was attacked on school grounds and later died in the hospital. I am horrified that the school district did not send them to the hospital, but in fact, attempted to suspend Nex for what was clearly a vicious attack. I am demanding justice for Nex. I am demanding that the school district take action in condemning those who attacked Nex and I am demanding that the administrators make real, tangible changes to ensure the safety of all students.
[Add a personal message if you so choose.]
[Insert name]

Post Author: Ace Hensley