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Autopsy finds transgender teen Nex Benedict died by suicide

Nonbinary Oklahoma student Nex Benedict died by suicide, an autopsy report by the state Medical Examiner has concluded.

According to the report, acquired by The Independent on Wednesday, the 16-year-old’s manner of death was suicide, while the probably cause was listed as “Diphenhydramine and Fluoxetine combined toxicity”.

Diphenhydramine and Fluoxetine are commonly known as Benadryl and Prozac.

Oklahoma student Nex Benedict’s cause of death revealed (AP)
Oklahoma student Nex Benedict’s cause of death revealed (AP)

The teenager was beaten by other students inside a school bathroom on 7 February, at the Owasso High School in Oklahoma. They died the following day.

Owasso Police Department also confirmed the ruling on Nex’s cause of death. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the department wrote: “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 Examiner’s Office. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s report has now been made public.

“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.”

Nex, whose family say used them/they pronouns, died one day after a fight with three girls inside a high school restroom, during which they suffered severe head injuries, according to the Owasso Police Department.

The teenager collapsed at home the day after the incident and was later pronounced dead in hospital.

According to the state Medical Examiner’s report, the 16-year-old’s manner of death was suicide (THE OKLAHOMAN)
According to the state Medical Examiner’s report, the 16-year-old’s manner of death was suicide (THE OKLAHOMAN)

Nex had been bullied at the school for being openly nonbinary, their mother Sue Benedict told The Independent. The bullying had begun, Ms Benedict said, at the beginning of the 2023 school year after Republican state lawmakers passed a bill that required public school students to use bathrooms that matched the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The family previously said they were conducting an independent investigation into the death, and said that the facts surrounding the case were “troubling at best”.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, said: “My heart is broken over the tragic death of Nex Benedict. The Medical Examiner’s finding of suicide makes me even more concerned that bullying played a role in this terrible loss.

“Experts tell us that social media, bullying and a host of other factors are fueling a rash of suicides among young people, particularly for marginalized and traumatized youth.

“Combating this problem likely means strengthening laws against bullying, as well as increasing emphasis on mental health services. Perhaps most immediately it means rejecting the cruelty of words and actions so often inflicted by other students, adults and algorithms on our youngest generations.”

Nex’s death after has led to widespread condemnation of Oklahoma lawmakers, who have introduced more than 50 anti-LGBTQ bills in the current legislative session. LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state have linked Nex’s death to the rise of hateful rhetoric and anti-trans legislation that has been passed.

Freedom Oklahoma described Nex’s death as a “hate crime”, and blamed the “hateful rhetoric spewed by leaders in our state” and far-right social media influencers.

In late February, following Nex’s death, more than a dozen of their former classmates staged a walkout to protest bullying and show support for the school’s LGBTQ community.

Students and advocates displayed signs that stated “You Are Loved” and “Protect Queer Kids” as they gathered at an intersection across from the school in the Tulsa suburbs.

“There is a community here in this city that does exist, and we see them, and they are loved,” organiser Cassidy Brown, an Owasso graduate, told KTUL.

The protest came amid nationwide vigils to honour Nex’s memory across Oklahoma state, and in Los Angeles, New York and Texas.

“It is appalling and shameful that Nex Benedict endured a year of anti-LGBTQ harassment, then a brutal beating in the school bathroom,” the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD said in a statement.

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said: “As parents, we send our kids to school expecting that they will be safe and cared for. 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. Nex died one day after being beaten unconscious in a school bathroom, and following more than a year of bullying and harassment at school. This is heartbreaking.

“And we have heard from so many parents and students that this culture of bullying and harassment is both pervasive at Owasso Public Schools and that many within the school had actual knowledge that it was occurring and took no steps to fix it.

“We reiterate our call for a full and complete investigation. Young people in Oklahoma and across the country deserve to be safe and respected at school.”

Nearly 58 per cent of of LGBT+ youth in Oklahoma felt unsafe at school, according to a 2022 survey from the Human Rights Campaign. Less than half of trans and gender nonconforming students in Oklahoma believe teachers and staff care about them, compared to two-thirds of trans youth in other states, the survey found.

A separate youth survey by the Trevor Project in 2022 found that 48 per cent of Oklahoma LGBT+ youth, including 55 -er cent of trans and nonbinary youth, had seriously considered suicide within the year prior to the survey.

Sixteen per cent of LGBT+ youth in the state, including 20 per cent of trans and nonbinary youth, reported attempting suicide, according to the report.