The devastating death of a nonbinary teen

By Tristan E. M. Leach

Coming out as nonbinary was one the biggest steps I have taken as a queer person. I have been lucky enough to live in states that are safe for transgender and nonbinary people: New Jersey and California. However, I am very aware that every day, transgender and nonbinary people across the country are not fortunate in the ways I am. 

I was reminded of this thought while scrolling through Instagram. I saw a post from Impact, a social media news outlet that reports on issues related to climate change, queer politics and more. The headline on the first slide read as follows: “A nonbinary 16-year-old is dead after being attacked in the bathroom of their Oklahoma high school.” I felt a sickness settle in the pit of my stomach as I took in the words. Under the headline, a curly-haired, bespectacled teenager smiled up at me. 

Their name: Nex Benedict. 

In Oklahoma, laws prohibit transgender and nonbinary people from using the bathroom that they are most comfortable in. This means that Nex Benedict had to use the girls’ bathroom while in school. Not only does this law discriminate against transgender and nonbinary individuals, it also opens up the door for potential danger to those individuals. This was, unfortunately, the case for Nex Benedict. 

Nex Benedict, who used they/them pronouns, was brutally beaten in the girls’ bathroom by three older students, resulting in injuries including head and brain trauma. Nex Benedict died the following day, and the cause of death is under investigation. The horror did not end with the beating. Nex Benedict’s high school refused to call an ambulance for the teenager, but a school nurse recommended that Nex Benedict go to the hospital after school. 

When Nex Benedict arrived home, their grandmother and legal guardian, Sue Benedict, took Nex Benedict to the hospital. Nex Benedict was interviewed by police while at the hospital and a report was filed. They were discharged from the hospital shortly after. No one knew that these would be the last hours of Nex Benedict’s life. 

One day later, shortly before 3 p.m., Sue Benedict called 911 for Nex Benedict. When emergency services arrived, CPR was performed and Nex Benedict was rushed to a pediatric hospital. Nex Benedict passed away there. 

If you feel like crying after reading that, you are not alone. I mourn Nex Benedict. I mourn what could have been for them and what should have been for them. I mourn that they never knew a world where it was safe to exist as a transgender or nonbinary person. I mourn that there is no way to protect every transgender, nonbinary and queer individual in the United States. 

As a queer, nonbinary, multi-ethnic leader on Rider’s campus, I work to ensure that safety exists for the LGBTQIA+ community. I have worked with several faculty, staff and students who share my concerns and passion for the LGBTQIA+ community, both at Rider and on a larger scale. I know what it takes to come out and be honest about who you are. There is nothing easy about being LGBTQIA+ in this country. So when institutions such as Rider make an effort to create safe spaces for us, we feel seen and heard. There is always room for improvement, but the very fact that those spaces were created speaks volumes. 

When I came to Rider, I made a point of becoming a student leader who could be an advocate for underrepresented communities, specifically those who are LGBTQIA+ and Native American peoples. I knew I had a responsibility to my communities and I knew Rider would work with me. When I see stories like Nex Benedict’s, I want to wrap my arms around every person on this campus who is part of the community and bring them comfort. The fear of being killed for being who you are has never left the LGBTQIA+ community, and I fear it may never. 

I see myself in Nex Benedict. We are both nonbinary and both members of Native American tribes. The only difference between us is that only one of us is still here, a fact that I may never be able to fully accept. 

Nex Benedict, I am sorry. I am sorry that you will never know a life outside of school, outside of Oklahoma. I am sorry that our lawmakers and those in power have failed you. I am sorry that no matter how kind and good you were, others decided you weren’t. I am sorry. 

I will forever carry the loss of another member of our community with me. It is moments like these that remind me why I work as hard as I do on Rider’s campus and why I will continue my work after my graduation this May. I hope Rider will continue to be a safe space and I hope that I never see another case like Nex Benedict’s again. They should have never been a case in the first place. 

Rest in peace, Nex Benedict. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with the recent news of LGBTQIA+ related issues The Rider News encourages that you reach out to one of these resources: 

The Trevor Project,

Rider Counseling Services,

Spectrum Pride Alliance,

Related Articles

Back to top button