Youth in Crisis

Nex Benedict died by suicide, according to medical examiner

An autopsy report summary has indicated that Oklahoma teen Nex Benedict died by suicide. In response to the report, advocacy groups have called for a thorough investigation, both into the death itself and into the role the hostile climate fostered by anti-LGBTQ+ politicians played.

Shortly after Benedict’s death, the Owasso Police Department ruled out trauma as the cause but stressed they were waiting on the results of a toxicology exam before declaring an official cause of death.

According to the New York Times, the results of that exam have revealed that Benedict died from the “combined toxicity” of diphenhydramine (a sleep-inducing allergy medication) and fluoxetine (an antidepressant). As a result, the medical examiner’s office has marked the cause of death as suicide, but the full autopsy report will be released on March 27.

In a statement, GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis criticized the consistent lack of information. “There is nothing in this one page document to explain why the medical examiner checked a box,” Ellis said. “Media must have learned by now that they need to continue to question what they get from law enforcement and government entities in Oklahoma that have so far failed to protect vulnerable students and responsibly provide any information that is critical for student safety. Nex Benedict’s family and the entire state of Oklahoma deserve far more answers and accountability from those charged with keeping Nex and all youth safe.”

Likewise, HRC President Kelley Robinson said, “We reiterate our call for a full and complete investigation.”

The death of Benedict — whom friends say was transgender and used primarily he/him pronouns in addition to they/them — drew national attention, mourning and outrage.

On February 7, Benedict and another transgender student were attacked by three older girls in a girl’s bathroom. According to body cam footage from police who interviewed Benedict afterwards, Benedict said that the girls were making fun of them. After he poured water on the girls, they retaliated, beating him and hitting his head repeatedly on the floor. In the footage, officer Caleb Thompson can be heard telling Benedict that he could be at fault for “starting” the incident. The following day, Benedict collapsed in his living room and was pronounced dead upon being rushed to the hospital.

Benedict’s mother Sue told reporters that Nex had endured increased bullying ever since the 2023 passage of anti-trans school policies. The bathroom bill passed by the Oklahoma legislature legally required Benedict to use the bathroom where he was harassed and attacked.

Advocates have joined the family in condemning legislation and inflammatory rhetoric that leaves queer youth prey to bullying and suicidal ideation. A recent analysis of FBI data found that reported hate crimes have quadrupled in states that have passed anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Additionally, queer crisis centers in Oklahoma reported a spike in crisis contacts in the aftermath of Benedict’s death.

“Whether or not it was a suicide or homicide,” said Rep Mauree Turner, the nation’s first out nonbinary state legislator, “The state of Oklahoma absolutely is responsible for the death of Nex Benedict. From Ryan Walters, to school officials, to members of the Oklahoma Legislature. We failed Nex and continue to fail students like Nex when these leaders* remain in power.”

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