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remembering Nex & all those lost to violence, February 23, 2024

We live in a diverse and ever-evolving world where the celebration of our differences should be at the forefront of our collective consciousness. The transgender community is an integral part of this rich tapestry that makes up the fabric of our society.

Too many transgender lives have been cut short by senseless acts of violence. And we know targeted legislation allows individuals a warped sense of right and wrong to administer their own sense of "justice."

What happened to Nex?

Nex Benedict, a transgender 16-year-old student from Oklahoma, was knocked to the ground during a fight, hit their head on the floor and was left with bruises and scratches after being badly beaten. The injuries were a result of Nex and another transgender student having been attacked a few weeks ago with three older girls in a girls bathroom at school. The following day, Nex collapsed in the family living room and was taken to the emergency room, where they were later declared dead.

Why did this happen?

Just under two years before Nex was killed, Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill that required public school students to use bathrooms according to the sex that was listed on their birth certificates. Nex was using the bathroom as determined by that legislation. Aside from bathrooms, the bill extends but is not limited to locker rooms, changing rooms and shower rooms. The bill applies to students all the way from pre-K to 12th grade at public schools in Oklahoma. If a school district or a charter school does not comply with the bill, their state funding will be decreased. Parents or legal guardians also have the ability to declare a cause of action against the school if they fail to comply with the bill.

In March 2022, the governor signed legislation that banned transgender women and girls from competing in sports events that align with their gender at school. The following month, in April 2022, a law was approved to ban any non-binary gender markers on birth certificates, saying that the designation shall be either male or female. More recently, in August 2023, Governor Stitt signed an executive order that directed state agencies to use narrow - and scientifically inaccurate - definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female.’

This legislation has a direct impact on the death of Nex. And the death of so many other individuals in our country.

History of Queer Violence

Since Nex’s death, a renewed outrage for Oklahoma’s anti-trans stance in a number of its policies has been called out on social media. But the death of a young person is unfortunately not new to our community.

We also remember moments like October 7, 1998, when Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked and tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyoming and left to die.

Or Tortuguita, a 26-year-old Indigenous queer and non-binary environmental activist and community organizer, who was shot and killed by Georgia state troopers in Atlanta, Georgia on January 18, 2023 during an ongoing protest alongside other “forest defenders.”

Or Banko Brown, a 24-year-old Black trans man, killed on April 27, 2023 by an armed security guard in San Francisco after an altercation with an armed security guard at a local Walgreens store.

Unfortunately, the list could go on forever. Nex's death reminds us that we as Trans and Queer individuals deserve a long and happy life. And we must fight for that right.

To be trans is to know community.

The complexities of the transgender experience are vast and varied. Despite these differences, our community is united through a shared journey toward authenticity and self-acceptance; a special bond that transcends individual narratives. When one trans person meets another, the bond and connection is so strong you can almost see the energy flow like a thick chord of trust and honor between them. It’s an instant recognition of humanity, a bolt of understanding, saying to each other “I SEE you.”

And so we gather in community tonight, to celebrate and mourn Nex.

Let our collective grief transform into a powerful force for change, and let us celebrate the beauty, honor the complexities, and stand together in solidarity, knowing that the shared bond within the trans community enriches us all.

All my Love,

Myrtle Lemon-Todd