As GSA Network, we love Nex Benedict and all trans, queer, Two-Spirit young people for being and becoming themselves. Even as a 16-year-old, Nex lived beyond society’s binary thinking and resisted being put into a box. They believed that it was their right to self-determine who they grew up to be—and we unwaveringly agree.*

We assert that every young person has the right to safety, dignity, and respect within their educational environment. However, laws targeting TQ2S+ youth, including those that restrict healthcare access, limit participation in school activities, and deny bathroom access, only serve to perpetuate harm and endanger the lives of students like Nex.

Self-determination doesn’t just happen but requires a foundation of community care and support. Time and connection are cyclical, which is why each generation impacts each generation. To blame individuals for their ability to live and reach for their potential ignores the role of our community as a main determinant of survival. Whether or not young people are raised in supportive and resourced homes and schools impacts everything.

This potential network of care was disrupted in Nex’s life.

  • Nex’s Choctaw lineage is connected to a history of systematic family separation for Indigenous communities by the United States government 
  • Oklahoma’s public education system and Ossowa Unified School District policies include gaps in curriculum that accurately reflect the histories and needs of its students
  • Persistent bullying based on Nex’s actual and perceived identities kept them in danger
  • Medical negligence and carelessness intensified Nex’s felt helplessness
  • Meanwhile, over five years of hostile legislation targeting trans and Native youth sent cultural messages of hate that encouraged a sense of hopelessness

None of these factors were cited in the medical examiner’s determination of what caused Nex’s death. 

Justice for Nex is no longer possible—that opportunity passed when Nex stopped living.

“It is clear to us the legacy of violence against native communities, and TQ2S+ is intertwined—we see in the colonized history of our erasure of our existence and how our stories unfold after our death. At this time, we must come together to hold our TQ2S+ with love, support, and care. We must be clear with our demands in the face of hostility.” 

-LuzMarina Serrano, GSA Network Lead Organizer Two Spirit Initiative and National Alliances

Ossowa High School, Ossowa Unified School District, Oklahoma Legislature and Department of Education, and the United States Department of Education failed in their duty to care for Nex’s livelihood. We must remove the leaders who will continue failing every Nex(t) generation.

We echo the call to action by numerous national and local TQ2S+ organizations demanding that the Oklahoma Legislature swiftly remove Ryan Walters from his position as Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

Superintendent Walters’ failure to foster a safe and inclusive school environment demonstrates a clear and intentional dereliction of duty. The Oklahoma Department of Education must also undergo a thorough investigation to change the policies and practices that contribute to a culture of unchecked harassment and violence against TQ2S+ students.

Now is the time for care-ful action and change. We urge all advocates and allies to join us in adding their names to the petition affirming our collective commitment to creating safer and more inclusive educational spaces for all young people.

Together, we can and must work toward a world where young people are free to grow up.

*National Trans Youth Council Nine-Point Platform (2018) Point 1: “We Call for the Right to Self-Determination and Control of our Destinies.”