Shining a light on Hingham news

The Harborlight

Shining a light on Hingham news

The Harborlight

Shining a light on Hingham news

The Harborlight

Victor Wembanyama on stage after being selected first overall in the 2023 NBA draft
NBA Mock Draft
Cavan Nicholas, Contributing Writer • May 27, 2024

Nex Benedict: Student, Victim, Martyr

Nate Billings for The Oklahoman
Nex Benedict’s photo projects onto a wall during a vigil in Oklahoma City on February 24, 2024.

NOTE: This article discusses transphobia, homophobia, hospitalization, assault, and suicide. If any of these things are too much for you to handle at the moment, it is recommended you skip this article.

Nex Benedict was a queer student at Owasso High School in Oklahoma whose death shattered the hearts of their family and the queer community as a whole. Nex was a non-binary and transmasculine 16-year-old who loved video games, reading, and drawing. They left behind grieving parents and their beloved cat, Zeus. He was of indigenous/Native American descent. Their pronouns were he/they. 

On February 7, 2024, in the girl’s bathroom at their school, Nex was being harassed by a group of three female students. Nex poured water onto the girls, which drove them to assault and to attack him. Descriptions of the fight from Nex’s friend claim the girls were bashing his head against the floor repeatedly. Nex was then sent to the hospital by the school nurse. The school did not inform the authorities of the fight, and the police were finally contacted by Nex’s mother. After an interview with the police, Nex was released from the hospital. 

On February 8, 2024, Nex was readmitted to the hospital in critical condition. It was thought their state was caused by their head trauma, but a recent autopsy revealed that Nex had consumed a lethal combination of fluoxetine (Prozac, an anti-depression/anxiety medication) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl, an antihistamine). Their death was ruled a suicide. 

Mr. Bagan, a Spanish teacher and supervisor of the GSA at HHS commented: “The tragic nature of Nex’s death is a stark reminder that queer students are still at a high risk for experiencing bullying, isolation, and suicidality in their communities.”

Haborlight asked Mr. Bagan if he thought something like Nex’s death could happen at Hingham High, to which he replied: “I think in general our school, staff, and administration have been outwardly supportive of our queer students and allies, especially in the wake of so much oppressive legislation being introduced against us in this country. I pray we never have to experience anything even remotely close to this at HHS, but truthfully this can happen anywhere no matter how supportive the larger community is toward queer students.”

Mr. Bagan stated that the HHS community could support queer students by, “…[encouraging] students to speak to an adult in the building if they see anything that looks like a student is a target of bullying. If we do not see it or know about it, there isn’t much that we as a staff can do to proactively protect students… On top of that, they can cite the GSA as a safe and supportive space for them to be around other queer students and allies; a sense of community is really important to combating the isolation that LGBTQ+ individuals often face.”

Following the release of the autopsy details, there have been several professionals who are skeptical of the conclusion. Both Dr. Joshua King, the medical director of the Maryland Poison Center at the Maryland School of Pharmacy, and Dr. Masha Yemets, an expert in the field of clinical toxicology, agree that while they cannot come to a definitive conclusion without access to the full autopsy report, death from the combination of fluoxetine and diphenhydramine alone is unlikely. The two substances are commonly taken and are relatively low-risk. 

These statements from toxicology professionals have made the public suspicious of the autopsy report. Some believe that the Owasso Police Department is attempting to cover up Nex’s true cause of death. While thought provoking, these ideas are largely unsubstantiated and should be considered critically. Not to say this idea is untrue, but more evidence is needed to determine the truth of the statement. 

On March 21,2024, the Tulsa County DA announced that no charges would be filed against the students who attacked Nex, as the fight seemed to be a case of mutual combat. 

A student at HHS who will remain anonymous wrote: “Nex’s death should be known and remembered along with every other LGBTQ+ person who has fallen victim to the harassment and persecution of others.” Anonymous continues, “Additionally those who have committed these acts should be held accountable for their actions, even today law enforcers have a record of downplaying these actions or excusing them, something which should not be happening today, but continues to do so.” 

As Anonymous claims, the government had more of an impact on this case than it may seem. Nex’s mother noted that the bullying at Nex’s school seemed to begin after the governor of Oklahoma Kevin Stitt passed a bill that prevented trans students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. This explains why Nex was in the women’s bathroom to begin with. The Human Rights Campaign analyzed data from a LGBTQ+ Youth study and found that queer students that could use a bathroom that aligned their gender identity reported lower rates of mental illness, bullying, and feeling unsafe at school. Stitt’s bill likely contributed to Nex’s ongoing bullying and eventual suicide. 

This transphobic legislation brings with it an increase in social media harassment and bullying. A teacher at Nex’s school who openly supported Nex and other LGBTQ+ students received so much harassment and threatening messages that they decided to resign. One particularly anti-LGBTQ+ social media account, Libs of TikTok, targeted John Glenn, a principal at an Oklahoma elementary school because of his participation in drag after school hours. After this attack, the school faced a bomb threat. This year, the founder of Libs of Tik Tok was appointed to Oklahoma’s library advisory committee.

In conclusion, Nex’s death is proof of the damage caused by America’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. These government officials claim to protect today’s youth, yet will pass bills that encourage harassment and bullying while doing nothing to support the victims. These recent bills such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” and “Don’t Say They” attempt to silence and oppress LGBTQ+ children and adults. These hateful laws masquerading as protection of children need to be stopped. Don’t let Nex die in vain.

If you or someone you know are considering suicide call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or visit Speaking of Suicide for alternative options. For LGBTQ+ issues, the Trevor Lifeline and Rainbow Youth Project are open for those considering suicide or in need of someone to talk to and can be found at 1-866-488-7386 and 1-317-643-4888. You are never alone.

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