One day after a transgender Oklahoman teen hit their head on the floor while getting attacked in their school bathroom, they were dead.
Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old from Owasso, Oklahoma, was the victim of transphobic torment from school bullies that started at the beginning of the 2023 school year, just a handful of months after the state signed into law a transgender bathroom ban, mandating that students use restrooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates.
The bullying reached an apex on February 7, according to Benedict’s family, when three older girls beat Benedict and another transgender student in the girls’ bathroom. The fighting left Nex bruised, with wounds on their face and eyes and scratches on the back of their head, reported The Independent.
Benedict’s mother, Sue Benedict, told the publication that she was furious the school didn’t call an ambulance or the police. To add insult to injury, the school then informed her that the bloodied teen—a straight-A student who enjoyed drawing, reading, and taking care of the family cat—would be suspended for the next two weeks.
Instead, Benedict collapsed on their family’s living room floor the following day. When EMTs arrived, they discovered that Benedict had stopped breathing. They were declared dead that evening.
Tragically, it’s not the first time that Owasso has punished one of its LGBTQ+ members. In April 2022, one of Benedict’s teachers at Owasso High School, Tyler Wrynn, was featured in a video by Libs of TikTok, a far-right account run by professional agitator Chaya Raichik whose other posts have led to multiple bomb threats across Oklahoma. In the clip, Wrynn told his students that he was proud of them, and encouraged them to love themselves despite outside pressures, adding that “if your parents don’t accept you for who you are, fuck them.” Following Raichik’s post, Wrynn became the subject of harassment and death threats, and after fiery local backlash, resigned from the district—much to the disappointment of Benedict.
“Nex was very angry about it,” their mother told the Independent.
Oklahoma is one of 11 states in the nation that have legislation on the books regulating bathroom access, which conservatives have framed as a student safety issue. But that flies in the face of the data. More than three quarters of transgender students across the country—76 percent—reported that they felt unsafe at school because of their gender, according to a 2021 GLSEN report. They were also five times more likely to be threatened or attacked while at school than their peers, according to data from The Trevor Project.
LGBTQ+ advocates within the state have made no qualms about placing the blame of Benedict’s death on Raichik’s inflammatory and hateful posts and Oklahoma’s lawmakers.
“We want to be clear, whether Nex died as a direct result of injuries sustained in the brutal hate-motivated attack at school or not, Nex’s death is a result of being the target of physical and emotional harm because of who Nex was,” wrote Freedom Oklahoma in a statement.
Meanwhile, Raichik’s influence will only continue to grow in the state. In January, the provocateur found a new role of authority within Oklahoma, landing herself a cushy government position supervising school libraries and deciding which books students in the state will be allowed to read.