Nonbinary Student Dies After Being Attacked In Oklahoma School

This attack is horrific, but it is not an isolated incident. Trans people are four times more likely to be the victims of violent crime than cis people. 

On February 8th, nonbinary sixteen-year-old Nex Benedict (they/them) died after being beaten by other students in the bathroom at Owasso High School in Oklahoma. This attack is horrific, but it is not an isolated incident. Transgender people are four times more likely to be the victims of violent crime than cisgender people. 

A Violent Attack: 

Nex was a sophomore at Owasso High School who was beaten by three older girls on February 7th and then passed away the following day. A parent who identified herself as the mother of Nex’s best friend told Oklahoma local news station KJRH  three older girls beat her daughter and Nex in the girl’s bathroom. In her account of the incident, one of the girls repeatedly beat Nex’s head across the bathroom floor. The attack was eventually stopped by a teacher. Even though Nex was injured, an ambulance was not called to the school. 

Nex’s grandmother brought Nex to the hospital the night of February 7th. Nex was released from the hospital but was brought back to the hospital the next day (February 8th) where they died. Nex’s obituary explained that they loved cats, and especially their cat Zeus. Nex enjoyed watching The Walking Dead, the game Minecraft, and enjoyed reading and drawing. (You can read the full obituary here, but be aware it deadnames Nex, and does not use their correct pronouns.)  

The School’s Response: 

According to Oklahoma news, the school did not have initial records about the fight, but a school resource officer collected information on the night of the incident at the hospital.  Owasso Public School issued a statement via email to local media: “The Owasso Police Department has notified district leaders of the death of an Owasso High School student. The student’s name and cause of death have not yet been made public. As this is an active police investigation, we will have no additional comment at this time. Further inquiries should be directed to the Owasso Police Department.”  

Institutionalized Transphobia: 

I do not know a single transgender or nonbinary person (myself included) who hasn’t been physically assaulted, at least once, for just living our lives.  It’s also important to contextualize Nex’s death and recognize that it did not happen in a vacuum. There are currently 467 bills in 41 states that are targeting transgender people aimed at keeping people from accessing basic rights including healthcare, bathroom access, and legal recognition. In the last year, Oklahoma criminalized providing gender-affirming medical care to minors, blocked transgender students from participating in sports, and blocked non-binary gender markers from birth certificates. Oklahoma also passed legislation which the governor signed into law that defines gender in the state as sex assigned at birth. 

Last year the Oklahoma Department of Education released a transphobic video in which their Secretary of Education Ryan Walters called transgender people “an assault on truth.” Many people are rightly making the connection between this institutionalized attack on transgender people, and Nex being attacked in an Oklahoma school. When politicians use anti-transgender rhetoric as rallying cries, they are causing real harm. Those messages of hate embolden people, and nonbinary/transgender people pay, sometimes with their lives.  The circumstances of Nex’s death are horrific, and yet utterly predictable within this culture of institutionalized transphobia. 

We Must Protect Nonbinary/Transgender Kids: 

As a former youth worker who spent many years running a drop-in program for LGBTQ+ teenagers, I’ve broken up many physical fights and assaults. If a young person is injured, an ambulance should always be called, and it is unfathomable to me that school officials did not provide Nex with immediate medical care.  

Nonbinary and transgender people should be safe living our lives. Children and teenagers should feel safe going to school, and not fear that they will be bullied and beaten. When politicians dehumanize us, when they make transgender and nonbinary people kindling to ignite the hate of their base, innocent people pay with their lives– including a sixteen-year-old who loved their cat and went to school one day, only to be beaten in a restroom. 

As queer adults we must speak out, and fight back against this violent transphobia spreading through our communities, that leaves young people dead. 

RIP Nex. I’m sorry that we couldn’t protect you. 

What Do You Think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *