Professors respond to the death of Nex Benedict

By Rider University P.U.S.H. Back

Earlier this month in Oklahoma, Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary high school student, was the victim of bullying by three other students in a school bathroom. While the facts of what exactly transpired are unclear, the next day, Nex died unexpectedly. Their death has brought national attention to anti-transgender legislation — like Oklahoma’s S.B. 615 passed in 2022 — and increasing discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people. 

Articles about the incident have appeared in national news outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, and a vigil was hosted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this past weekend. We understand that, even though this incident occurred thousands of miles away in another state, Rider’s LGBTQIA+ students might be feeling concerned, fearful and unsafe as we enter another contentious election season in which the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals, and especially transgender youth, are politically weaponized, and as many state legislatures across the U.S. enact restrictive policies that actively harm gender-nonconforming youth. 

We also recognize how this harmful rhetoric that denies the existence of transgender, non-binary and two-spirit people works alongside coordinated attempts to censor not only books and curricula that concern marginalized people — particularly Black people — and the history of the U.S., but also to censor the idea of racism itself. These attacks and many more in the so-called  “culture war” intersect across gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality, class, religion and other identities to perpetuate abuses of power and privilege. Even as their persecution is part of a larger system of oppression, the attacks against LGBTQIA+ people, particularly transgender, non-binary and two-spirit people, have been particularly violent. 

To that end, we, the undersigned faculty of Rider’s Professors United for a Safe Haven (P.U.S.H.) Back group, want students to know that we are here to support you in this uncertain time. Every student, regardless of their sexuality, gender identity and gender expression, deserves to feel safe and thrive in their educational environment. Violence and hate — against LGBTQIA+ students or anyone else — have no place at Rider.

 We are fortunate enough to live in New Jersey, where discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by law. Individuals have the right to choose which facilities they feel most comfortable using. However, we cannot rest, because the attacks are local as well, as with New Jersey’s recent book challenges centering on LGBTQIA+ themes. Know that we, as educators and advocates, will continue to challenge false narratives and expose deliberate disinformation to further the empowerment of marginalized identities and progress towards a more equitable and inclusive society for all.   

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or at-risk, please know that there are confidential resources available. You can contact Rider’s Counseling Center by email at 

The Trevor Project provides counseling services to queer youth. Call 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678.

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