How Nex Benedict’s Classmates Are Working to Make Their School Safer for LGBTQ Kids


Ally, 18, remembers Nex Benedict as the kind of friend who refused to give up on someone. “No matter what was going on in their life,” Ally said. “No matter what their day was like, they always made sure to do something to make me laugh. No matter how bad their day was, they’d always show up.”

Just weeks ago, Ally was sitting in art class with Nex. The last time Ally saw Nex, he was showing them the stuffed animal that his boyfriend had given him. But everything changed on February 7 when Nex, a 16-year-old Oklahoma high school sophomore, was reportedly beaten by three girl classmates in the bathroom of Owasso High School. He was declared dead at a hospital on February 8. Nex identified within the Two Spirit, transgender, and gender nonconforming (2STGNC) umbrella and, according to friends, Nex used both he/him and they/them pronouns. LGBTQ+ Oklahomans and fellow Owasso High School students are mourning the loss of Nex and, through protest and action, fighting for change.

On Feb. 26, students staged a walk-out and protest in response to what they consider to be a culture of bullying at their school. Braylin, 20, a former Owasso High School student who graduated in 2022, attended the protest and streamed it live on TikTok. “I wanted to document it,” he said. “The vibe was pretty peaceful on one side and the other side was pretty chaotic,” Braylin said, referencing one counter protestor who showed up. “But [being involved in the protest] meant a lot to me because it was my community, my school. I never thought it would happen at my school.”

Nina, an 18-year-old Owasso High School senior, chanted a call-and-return of “what do we want?” “Justice for Nex!” “When do we want it?” “Now!” and Nina soaked in the atmosphere of togetherness. “You could feel the unity around you,” she said. “We had cars honking in agreement. We stayed there and sat in the grass and listened to music and we just held our signs.”

Nina came to the protests after she had joined a Snapchat group for students at the high school following Nex’s death. In the group, rumors and what Nina called “hate” and “horrible things” about Nex were swirling. When she found out about the protest, she knew she had to partake – partly because of her own experience with bullying in the school district. In elementary school, she says, she was told by peers that she would be deported back to Mexico if Donald Trump became President. Later, Nina says fellow students put notes in her backpack urging her to kill herself. In this way, the bullying that reportedly led to Nex’s death is not unknown to her and when she caught wind of the protest, she made a sign inked with a reference to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote. Her sign said: “choose love – hate is too great a burden to bear.”

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Tags: lgbtq rights, trans, transgender rights

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