Youth in Action, March 2024: Outcry over death of genderfluid youth

March 8, 2024

by Buddy Bell

Nex Benedict. Photo: Benedict family.

In Owasso, Okla., 16-year-old high school student Nex Benedict collapsed in the living room of their home and later died only one day after a fight in a girls’ restroom at school. Nex was gender non-conforming and lived on Cherokee land. Their mother is a member of the Choctaw Nation. On Feb. 7, Nex was bullied and knocked down in the school restroom. The back of their head hit the floor. They identified as gender-fluid, but in using the girls’ restroom they were complying with a 2022 Oklahoma law that requires high school students to use facilities consistent with the gender marker on their birth certificate. A ban on any gender-neutral marker being used on a birth certificate was also passed in Oklahoma the same year.

As news of this child’s death spread, people in several cities in Oklahoma and around the U.S. held vigils. Hundreds of Owasso residents attended a vigil in the town’s Redbud Park on Feb. 25. The following morning, dozens of Nex’s classmates at Owasso High School held a walkout to support the local LGBTQ+ community and advocate for stronger anti-bullying policies. Former Owasso student Alexandria Davidson spoke to the Indypendent: “At first I didn’t feel anything—I couldn’t. What am I supposed to feel at that point, knowing someone I used to walk in the halls with is no longer a part of our lives?”

Nex Benedict’s mother told the Indypendent that the bullying of her child had been ramping up since the passage of the 2022 legislation targeting Transgender people in Oklahoma. She is also circumventing local police, who insist autopsy reports do not substantiate the cause of death as head trauma. She has hired a private investigator.


The connection between anti-Trans legislation and anti-Trans bullying and violence has been pointed out in manifestations and rallies. One year ago, Northern Kentucky University student Rin June protested a Kentucky bill that would prohibit all school personnel from talking about gender identity or sexual orientation in school. As June told The Northerner: “I am more than horrified by this bill. It is not only a deprivation of civil liberties but also harmful toward the economics and the wellbeing of people in the future. It is a dangerous law. It will ultimately isolate people, allow people to be targeted both by hate groups and politically, by the police.”

The vigils, protests and walkouts themselves “show Transgender youth they have strong allies,” according to 17-year-old student Achilles Chinery. He was one of 260 high school students who walked out of two schools in Edmonton, Canada, in early February. They were protesting a provincial law to require parental notification when students requested to change their names or pronouns at school. Speaking to CBC, Chinery added, “I honestly don’t know how much of a difference it will make to [Alberta Premier] Danielle Smith, but I do know it will make a difference to the people who are scared and worried right now.”

Last month, Northwestern University student Jordan Muhammad spoke to the Daily Northwestern and encouraged members of society to oppose this seeming spiral of violence. While students held a candlelight vigil for Nex Benedict on campus on Feb. 29, he said, “We have the ability to make this something that’s not inevitable. We have the ability to work towards a future where violence against Trans people (and) violence against Indigenous people becomes unacceptable.”

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