5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Talking About Nex Benedict With Youth

Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teen in Oklahoma, died on February 8, 2024. Before their death, they were the victim of bullying in their school, and their death has been linked to a violent altercation with other students. Though not all details are clear, there is reason to believe Nex’s death was linked to their gender identity.

Girls Leadership shares in the outpouring of grief and outrage. We know that many in our community are struggling to understand how to respond to this tragedy, especially because it is a particularly devastating example of a larger trend toward exclusion, extremism and hate happening across the country. Many LGBTQ+ people, especially youth, have since shared their fears of bullying, harassment and violence.

Lance Preston, founder of Rainbow Youth Project, stated that “We already have kids who are reporting they don’t want to go back to school. Even though there’s not a lot of information available still, there’s that fear: ‘Oh my goodness, they killed that student because they were nonbinary. What’s going to happen when I go to use the bathroom?’”

These fears are a terrible burden on young people, and also on the adults in their lives who support them. It’s hard to know what to do or how to help. Given how vital the role of community and chosen family is in mitigating trauma and anti-LGBTQ+ oppression among LGBTQ+ young people, here are some questions to guide your own reflection before talking with youth about Nex Benedict. 

  • What do I think and believe about my role as an adult ally to LGBTQIA+ youth?
  • What do I want  young people around me to learn by watching me in response to this tragedy?
  • What do I want to model for other parents, caretakers, and youth-serving professionals right now?
  • What support do I need from other adults right now to better prepare me to speak out? 
  • What do I need to do to take care of myself while I show up for young people right now?

As a first step, we ask that you join us in remembering Nex Benedict’s name and pronouns (they/them), and in supporting the queer youth in your life in the ways they most need. Learn more about Nex’s story here and here, and learn more about gender-expansive identities and pronouns here and here

 If a young person you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns, the Trevor Project staffs crisis counseling for LGBTQIA+ youth 24/7 via phone, chat and text. They also offer solo interactive calming exercises. Press [esc] if you need to quickly exit their site.

Thank you for being part of our community, and for helping to create spaces of belonging for all youth. 

Friends have told NBC News that Benedict was transgender and primarily went by he/him pronouns at school but also used they/them pronouns, which Benedict’s family also used. Several other friends said Benedict preferred he/him pronouns.

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