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Nex Benedict: ‘Infrastructure of anti-trans hate’ blamed for death of non-binary student at New York vigil

LGBT+ activists said an “infrastructure of anti-trans hate” had contributed to the death of Nex Benedict during a candlelight vigil at the historic Stonewall Inn in New York.

“Nex Benedict, I want to say I’m sorry for the ways your peers and your school threw you away,” nonbinary actor Sara Ramirez told a crowd of around 500 who gathered at the birthplace of the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States on Monday night.

“Your life was valuable.”

Nex, 16, died one day after they were involved in a bathroom fight with three students at Owasso High School on 7 February.

In police body cam footage released on Friday, Nex told a school resource officer that they poured water on three girls who had been bullying them and their friends for “the way that we dress”.

Nex said the three girls “jumped” and beat them until they blacked out. Nex collapsed at home on 8 February and was pronounced dead in a hospital emergency room later that day.

Owasso police have said Nex’s death was not a result of trauma, and a cause of death has not been established. Nex’s family are conducting an independent investigation into their death.

Nonbinary actor Sara Ramirez speaks at a candlelight vigil at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village on Monday to remember nonbinary Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict

(Bevan Hurley / The Independent)

Vigil attendees in New York’s West Village on Monday night carried signs reading “Oklahoma kills children”, and “Nex was killed by hate”.

Ms Ramirez called out celebrities, lawmakers and social media influencers including Dave Chappelle, Elon Musk and Chaya Raichik, who runs the Libs of TikTok social media account, for fostering a culture of hatred and intolerance toward nonbinary youth.

“There is an infrastructure of anti-trans hate all around us. It has to stop,” the And Just Like That actor told the crowd during an impassioned speech.

“It is our moral and humanitarian obligation to speak up, show up and take action against the anti-trans machine. To all of our trans, nonbinary and queer youth, I want to say I love you.”

Nex’s death after they were bullied for being openly nonbinary has led to widespread condemnation of Oklahoma lawmakers, who have introduced dozens of anti-LGBT+ bills in the current legislative session.

Nex Benedict had been bullied for more than a year for being openly nonbinary, mother Sue Benedict said

(Courtesy of Benedict family)

Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt last year signed an executive order defining an individual’s sex as the “biological sex” at birth and has targeted gender-affirming care for trans youths.

Republican state lawmakers passed a bill in 2022 that required public school students to use bathrooms that matched the sex listed on their birth certificates.

Over the weekend, vigils for Nex took place across Oklahoma, and in Boston, Minneapolis, California, Texas, Washington state, and New Jersey.  

Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village on Monday to remember nonbinary Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict

(Bevan Hurley / The Independent)

Among the crowd were several members of the LGBT+ community who grew up in Oklahoma.

Jack Tillman, 26, told The Independent that his home state had been portrayed in a devastating light after Nex’s death, but that it wasn’t reflective of his experiences growing up.

“It’s really upsetting to see Oklahoma depicted in that way because I think that it gives this scope that Oklahoma is this extremely unsafe and scary place to be for gay and trans people,” Mr Tillman said.

“I did encounter hate at times, I would say that the communities that I put myself in I found a lot of support.”

His friend Mahima Bhasin, who is also from Oklahoma, said Nex’s death was a “devastating loss”.

Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village on Monday to remember nonbinary Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict

(Bevan Hurley / The Independent)

“Being gender nonconforming in a place like Owasso is difficult because people don’t have the language or the education to be helpful,” Ms Bhasin said.

“If they were not queer, I feel like the situation would have been handled differently.”

The vigil was organised by New Alternatives, which provides services for LGBT+ homeless youth in New York City.

Executive director Kate Barnhart told The Independent that Nex’s death had “horrified” the young people she worked with, many of whom had come to the US to flee anti-trans hatred from around the world.

A crowd of around 500 gathered at the historic Stonewall Inn in New York to pay tribute to Nex Benedict

(Bevan Hurley / The Independent)

“These young people could easily have been in this situation that Nex was in,” Ms Barnhart said.

“I was just really sad because I have spent my whole career working with people who looked just like Nex. It’s just getting harder and harder to protect our young people,” Ms Barnhart said.

Nex’s mother Sue Benedict told The Independent that Nex had been bullied for more than a year due to their identity.

She has raised doubts about the police investigation, and said through a lawyer that the facts surrounding the case are “troubling at best”.


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