LGBTQ teen Nex Benedict died by suicide, medical examiner says

Written by on March 14, 2024

Courtesy Sue Benedict

(NEW YORK) — Oklahoma 16-year-old Nex Benedict died by suicide, according to an autopsy report released Wednesday by the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Benedict, a member of the 2SLGBTQ community, died one day after getting into a physical fight with several other students at Owasso High School.

Benedict was nonbinary and went by they/them pronouns, according to Benedict’s family. 2SLGBTQ includes Two Spirit, an umbrella term used to describe a third gender in Native and Indigenous communities. Sue Benedict, their mother, is a registered member of the Choctaw Nation.

Freedom Oklahoma, a political advocacy group that fights for LGBTQ+ issues, said in a statement to ABC News that Benedict’s death highlights attacks on the transgender and gender non-conforming community.

“2STGNC+ students are the ones at risk; they are under attack in their schools, and they are under a coordinated attack by extremist politicians who care more about soundbites than children’s lives,” the organization’s statement read. “Nex’s death occurred during a nationwide effort to push 2SLGBTQ+ people out of public life and back into the closets.”

Anti-LGBTQ bullying and violence have been the center of conversation in the aftermath of Benedict’s death earlier this month, as Benedict’s family called for action and answers concerning the bullying they say Nex faced in school.

“The Benedicts know all too well the devastating effects of bullying and school violence, and pray for meaningful change wherein bullying is taken seriously and no family has to deal with another preventable tragedy,” the family said via their attorney in a statement to ABC News.

LGBTQ+ youth are at greater risk for poor mental health, bullying and violence than their non-LGBTQ+ peers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which encourages schools to implement supportive policies and practices for students who will in turn experience better health outcomes.

LGBTQ students are also more likely to seriously consider suicide or attempt than their non-LGBTQ peers, the CDC reports.

The Department of Education has opened an investigation into Owasso Public Schools following a complaint from the Human Rights Campaign related to such concerns.

“Bullying in any form is unacceptable,” the district said in a past statement. “We take reports of bullying very seriously and have policies and procedures in place to address such behavior.”

In a statement to ABC News, the Owasso Police Department said it suspected the cause of Benedict’s death, but refrained from saying anything pending the results of the medical examiner’s office.

“From the beginning of this investigation, Owasso Police observed many indications that this death was the result of suicide. However, investigators did not wish to confirm that information without the final results being presented by the Oklahoma Medical Examiners Office,” the police said in a statement.

“The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s report has now been made public,” the statement continued, adding, “The Owasso Police Department would like to take this moment to inform anyone in crisis or contemplating suicide of the Oklahoma Mental Health Lifeline, just call or text 988.”

The Human Rights Campaign released a statement condemning anti-LGBTQ violence and bullying following the release of the medical examiner’s report.

“As parents, we send our kids to school expecting that they will be safe and cared for,” the statement read. “Nex was failed by so many and should still be here today. We hold their family in our hearts as they grapple with the devastating reality that their beloved child, a teen with a bright future, is no longer making this world a brighter place.”

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for free, confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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