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Demanding Justice and Accountability: Addressing Systemic Failures in the Wake of Nex Benedict’s Tragic Death

Oklahoma Medical Examiner Says Nex Benedict Died by Suicide

The death of Nex Benedict and reports that Nex took their own life continue to break our hearts, frustrate us, and anger us—this also moves us to action. Every system that should have protected Nex and supported their education and safety did not do their jobs. In the current climate, we know that Nex is not alone, as we continue to see attacks on trans and non-binary people, especially our young people.

As a community, we grieve with and support those who knew and loved Nex in Owasso, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and all those fighting transphobia and hate. This culture of hostility and bullying of trans and non-binary youth must be addressed by the institutions that are in a position to do so. It is not simply wrong to allow this climate to thrive, and it is directly responsible for so much pain, suffering, and the loss of far too many young lives.

I deeply empathize with those most deeply impacted by the loss of Nex. I lost my nephew in April 2016. The police department in the Fort Worth area wouldn’t return phone calls from my sister or mother. There was no autopsy. No investigation. They told us he committed suicide, and that was that. It was clear that this 19-year-old Black boy’s life wasn’t worthy of honoring with the time and attention of law enforcement. To this day, the lack of closure or clear answers continues to be an open wound in the family.

The encouraging news is that youth suicide isn’t a disease that has no cure. It is almost entirely preventable with the courage, responsibility, love, and attention of adults in school, faith communities, and family. And when our young lives end, the families and communities deserve dignity, respect, and the courtesy of closure. According to recent reports — “…just one supportive adult can make a tremendous difference in positive outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth and youth of color, decreasing suicidal ideation, self-harm and self-esteem issues significantly”.

We ALL have the power and responsibility to create environments where our young people can laugh, love, learn, thrive, and grow.  

We continue to demand a full investigation into Superintendent Ryan and how the police handled this case. When we say the system failed Nex, we mean systems—at all levels and throughout their far too short life. We demand justice for Nex.

Kierra Johnson, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director