Hundreds gather for candlelit vigils in memory of trans teen Nex Benedict

Mourners called for action as they remembered the Oklahoma teenager who died the day after allegedly being beaten by three students in a school bathroom.

Photograph of people holding candles at a vigil for Nex Benedict.

Vigils are being held across the US following the tragic death of Nex Benedict, an Oklahoma teenager who died the day after allegedly being beaten by three students in a school bathroom.

At a vigil on Saturday, February 24, over 500 people filled the Point A Gallery in Oklahoma City’s LGBTQ+ community haven, and at least 100 more filled the street outside. Friends and family describe Nex as someone who loved to draw, read, and play Minecraft.

Several of Nex’s close friends clarified that the 16-year-old used both they/them and he/him pronouns. Robin Gray who dated Nex said, “I want to start off by saying that Nex was transgender, and he used he/him pronouns,” adding, “He was so much more than his transness.”

One of Nex’s close friends, Ally, a senior at Owasso High School in Oklahoma, described Nex as adventurous. They said, “It was one of those things where you meet them and you automatically feel like you’ve known them for years kind of thing.” Ally added, “It was never really a dull moment with them.”

Another friend, Spencer, said, “He made everything easier. He kept energy levels high. He would always keep the room in a good mood. He was always one of the brightest kids in the room, whether he would smile or not.”


City Council representative James Cooper said, “It could have been me. I lost count of the number of times in middle school, high school, grade school, when groups in the hallways made similar threats.”

LGBTQ+ activist Sister Ishtar from a queer order of nuns called Sisters of the Sacred Heartland said, “I tell you what’s great about today, is I see a lot of people I’ve never seen out at one of these. Obviously this has struck a chord with the community and that’s very encouraging.”

Several mourners attending vigils have called for action, referencing that Nex had been bullied at school since 2023, the same year that Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt passed a law banning transgender students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Nicole Poindexter, a campaign director for Oklahoma’s Human Rights Campaign, said, “We told them this would happen…We told them that if they continued this rhetoric of hate, this rhetoric of division, that it would result in body bags, and I am devastated to tell you we were right.”

Many grievers at vigils for Nex have also referenced recent inflammatory comments from Oklahoma Senator Tom Woods, who described his LGBTQ+ constituents as “filth”, pointing to how these words have devastating consequences. As more states across the country consider bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community, many hope that voters will consider Nex’s story and stand up to hateful legislation.


Nex passed away after being involved in a physical altercation in the girls’ bathroom of Owasso High School. Three older female students reportedly attacked Nex and another transgender pupil in the girls’ bathroom, which resulted in Nex suffering head injuries.

The school staff did not call an ambulance but recommended that Nex visit a medical facility for an examination. Nex attended Bailey Medical Center in Tulsa County and spoke to a police school resource officer before being discharged.

The following day, the 16-year-old collapsed in their home and was pronounced dead in hospital. Initial information obtained from the medical examiner’s office indicated that Benedict “did not die as a result of trauma,” but an official cause of death is still pending.

A video released on Friday, February 23, by the Owasso Police Department shows Benedict telling police they were attacked in the bathroom by three girls. They said the girls repeatedly beat them until they “blacked out”.

In the video, the police officer described the verbal bullying Nex experienced as “free speech,” and advised against filing a police report, saying it would be a shame for students to face a criminal situation for something “so minuscule”.

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