Nex Benedict Loved Cats and Video Games and Reading

I cannot stop seeing his face. His sweet round cheeks and bright eyes. The slopes in his wavy brown hair. The way that he smiles with his lips pressed in front of his teeth, like I used to do to hide my braces. There’s a dimple in there, too. In one photo, he is making a peace sign and wearing glasses. In another, he’s standing proud in a vest and a white button down, his hands shoved into his pocket. His hair always seems a bit messy, but in the cool way, like he just ran his hands in it. Because he probably did. Because kids are always on the move. Because he was a kid. Sixteen. A child. Nex Benedict was a child. And when the announcement of his death reached me on Monday, from the second I first saw his sweet face, my stomach dropped. It fell out of my gut and then wrapped itself somewhere around my knees. I have thought of very little else since.

Nex loved to draw. He loved reading. His favorite video games were Ark and Minecraft. He would have done absolutely anything for his cat, Zeus. He was a straight-A student. Of course, being a straight-A student isn’t the reason Nex still deserves to be here, being a human walking this earth did that. But I hope we remember this little Minecraft loving nerd for more than how he died. I hope we remember that he loved friendship bracelets first.

Nex died earlier this month following a physical assault that took place in his Owasso, Oklahoma high school bathroom. According to Sue Benedict, Nex’s grandmother and legal guardian who spoke with The Independent, both Nex (who identified as gender-fluid) and another transgender student were attacked in the bathroom by three older girls. During the attack, Nex suffered head injuries.

In a statement provided to The Cut, a representative from Owasso Public Schools said that the students in question “were in the bathroom for roughly two minutes, and that the altercation was broken up by fellow students and a bathroom attendant, at which point the involved students were escorted to the assistant principal’s and nurses offices, where statements were taken.” It was determined that, per district protocol, ambulance services were not needed. Though they recommended that one student be taken to the hospital by their guardian for care.

The statement continued, “the loss of a student, a member of the Ram Family and Owasso community, is devastating. We recognize the impact that this event has had on the entire school community and it is our priority to foster an environment where everyone feels heard, supported, and safe.”

Benedict says that when she arrived at the school, she found Nex to be visibly bruised and with scratches on the back of his head, and that the school had not called an ambulance or the police. Instead, she says that school officials informed her that Nex would be suspended for two weeks (presumably, due to the school fight). Benedict then took Nex to the Bailey Medical Center in Owasso on her own, where they spoke to a school-resource officer and was discharged. The Owasso Police Department confirmed both the “physical altercation” and Nex’s head injuries; in a statement to The Advocate they also confirmed that they were not informed of the incident by the school until Nex had arrived at the hospital later that day.

The next day, Nex collapsed in the family living room. By the time the EMT officers arrived, Benedict said that Nex had stopped breathing. The hospital declared him dead on the evening of February 8.

According to Benedict, Nex had been bullied at school since last year. In 2022, the anti-trans hate-filled social media site Libs of TikTok posted a video mocking an Owasso High School teacher for supporting queer and trans students. That teacher, who Benedict says Nex looked up to, resigned following outcry from Libs of TikTok’s post. Following Libs of TikTok’s 2022 video, Oklahoma governor Kevin State signed an anti-trans bathroom bill into law in 2023. Last month, Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok, was appointed by Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters to supposedly “make schools safer” in the state. In the last few days, Chaya Richik denied any wrongdoing related to Nex’s death on Twitter.

Sue Benedict raised Nex since he was two years old. “Nex did not see themselves as male or female, Nex saw themselves right down the middle,” Ms. Benedict told The Independent. “I was still learning about it, Nex was teaching me that.” According to his grandparents, Nex was patient in correcting if they misused a pronoun or called them by the wrong name. “When you’re old school, you don’t always understand it,” Sue’s husband Walter said. “But it would be very boring if we were all the same. It’s on the inside that matters most.”

Nex’s sister, Malia Pila, who also identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, told The Independent that Nex’s gender identity was well known and “not an issue or anything that anybody cared about” within their family.

In the days since Nex’s passing, his grandparents have found themselves thrust in front of a lot of press, in some of which they misgendered Nex. On a GoFundMe created by a family friend to help cover Nex’s memorial services (note before clicking: the site uses Nex’s incorrect name), Ms. Benedict apologized: “We are sorry for not using their name correctly and as parents we were stil learning the correct forms… we are sorry in our grief that we overlooked them. I lost my child, the headstone will have correct name of their choice. The rest of monies will go to other children dealing with the right to be who they feel they are, in Nex Benedict’s name. God bless.”

It’s clear that Nex was surrounded in love at home, which I hope was a comfort. I hope that he knew and was comforted by how much he was treasured and cared for, not only by his immediate loved ones (though certainly, most importantly by them) — but also by so many countless strangers in this queer and trans family who did not know his name or story until his passing, and have thought of very little else since.

Our editorial team struggled with how and when to write about this. We knew that we didn’t want to add to sensationalizing a trans kid’s death. We didn’t want to fear-monger for clicks, or jump to conclusions that might harm especially our trans readers amidst so many conflicting accounts of Nex’s last hours and days (though it’s worth remembering that the school’s account, at least, does not make logical sense in the context of everything else that’s known). And I apologize if in our thoughtfulness, it took us even a minute longer than it should have to get this piece published.

But what we know is that Nex Benedict deserves to be remembered. He deserves to have his story told in as many queer spaces and trans spaces as possible. He deserves to be held in our heart, a reminder that we have to fight with steel in our backbones for trans kids and queer kids to be able to continue growing up safely, held close and nurtured, above all else. And I hope we do this not because Nex deserves to be some type of martyr — but because he was honestly, deeply, and unequivocally, loved by each and every one of us reading this page.

I hope that when we think of him, it’s the tucked away dimple that we remember first. I hope it’s his eyes and his cheeks, those hands shoved into his pockets and how sharp he looked in his vest.

Editor’s Note: After the publishing of this piece, it has been brought to our attention that Nex preferred he/him pronouns. This piece has been edited throughout to reflect his wishes.

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen Phillips is Autostraddle's former editor in chief. She began at Autostraddle in 2017 as a freelance team writer and worked her way up through the company, eventually becoming the EIC from 2021-2024. A Black Puerto Rican feminist writer with a PhD in American Studies from New York University, Carmen specializes in writing about Blackness, race, queerness, politics, culture, and the many ways we find community and connection with each other.  During her time at Autostraddle, Carmen focused on pop culture, TV and film reviews, criticism, interviews, and news analysis. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. And there were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. To reach out, you can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram, or her website.

Carmen has written 716 articles for us.


  1. Such a deeply devastating story. I’m stuck on the detail that they were about to be suspended. I saw so many kids I went to school with get suspended for “fighting” when they were being beaten up and usually not even retaliating/defending themselves in any way. So aggressively punitive for no reason.

  2. Failed at every step from the school and state!! Esp as the gay principal that was watching out for Nex was harassed and threatened into resigning!😡 I observe a pattern of organized hate and discrimination ! Tell me who should be held responsible and how?

  3. Thank you to you and the team for taking the time to reflect on Nex, in life and brutal death, in such a thoughtful and compassionate way. Holding Nex, their family and our entire community in my heart.

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