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  • Writer's pictureSimone Ellin

Nex Benedict and the Epidemic of Bullying Trans and Non-binary Kids

Here we go again.

Nex Benedict, 16, is the latest casualty of the far right's hate campaign against LGBTQ+ individuals. Nex, who was nonbinary, died one day after they were beaten in their school bathroom by three older girls. While it's true that there is no official cause of death yet, we do know that Nex had been bullied at school for at least a year and that their injuries were severe enough that they needed to be evaluated at a local hospital. Incidentally, Nex's school, Owasso High School in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, didn't call an ambulance or the police after the incident. The school also didn't detain the girls who beat them.

When I saw Nex's photograph in one of the articles written following their death on Feb. 8, I was struck with how beautiful and innocent they appeared. They had intelligent brown eyes and perfectly arched eyebrows, a sweet smile and skin like fresh peaches. And now they're dead. Because bullying can kill.

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, found that transgender individuals are over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault."

Furthermore, the Trevor Project reports that "LGBTQ students are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their straight and cis gender peers. Negative treatment by others, such as bullying, is a strong and consistent risk factor for youth suicide and LGBTQ youth experience bullying at significantly greater rates than their straight and cisgender peers."

Yet, the right would have us believe that transgender people are the ones who are dangerous. The hypocrisy is jaw-dropping.

In Oklahoma, where Nex lived, political leaders such as Ryan Walters, the state superintendent of Oklahoma schools, is vocal about his opposition to trans rights; and in recent days, an Oklahoma state senator referred to LGBTQ people as "filth." Right wing national politicians have taken similar positions with regard to LGBTQ rights. Is it any wonder then, that U.S. citizens, including young people, believe that bullying their trans classmates is acceptable?

According to a press statement from the Owasso police, "a thorough investigation [into Nex's death] is being conducted by Owasso Police Detectives." I hate to be cynical, and of course, I don't know the law enforcement officers involved in this investigation, but somehow I'm not anticipating that Nex and their family will see justice.

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