After Suicide Ruling in Nex Benedict Case, LGBTQ+ Groups Call for “Complete Investigation”

Note: This article contains discussion of suicide and anti-transgender violence.

After the Oklahoma medical examiner’s office released a report stating that trans 16-year-old Nex Benedict died by suicide, LGBTQ+ advocates are continuing to call for an investigation into the circumstances of his death.

An early summary of the report was released on Wednesday, stating that the probable cause of Benedict’s death was a combination of the “combined toxicity” of diphenhydramine (the antihistamine found in Benadryl) and fluoxetine (the antidepressant that is the active drug in Prozac). However, the full medical examiner’s report will not be released until March 27.

Benedict, who used he/they pronouns, was reportedly beaten by three classmates on February 7. In bodycam footage released by the Owasso Police Department filmed in Benedict’s hospital room, the teenager’s mother, Sue, described a pattern of bullying her child had experienced, including name-calling and throwing objects. Benedict was discharged from the hospital the same day, and was pronounced dead the following morning after collapsing at home. Given the circumstances of his death and the limited information in the report summary, LGBTQ+ groups are loudly reiterating their calls for further information and accountability.

In a statement Nicole McAfee, the executive director of the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization Freedom Oklahoma, said that the report “offers, for a second time, only limited insight into a decision about possible cause of death for Nex Benedict.”

“[We]e have said from the beginning that whether Nex died as a result of the physical or emotional harm he was subjected to, our elected officials, our appointed State Board of Education, Owasso High School, and all of us failed Nex in allowing for policies and rhetoric that created a regularly hostile environment for a kid just trying to live as his authentic self,” McAfee said. “Nothing in this report changes the responsibility to keep our young people safe.”

McAfee also reiterated Freedom Oklahoma’s call for the immediate resignations of Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Education Ryan Walters and state library advisory board member and Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik, as well as “any other policymaker who has and continues to contribute to Oklahoma’s culture of anti-trans bigotry.”

Walters has been widely criticized for his outspoken views against so-called “gender ideology,” having voted for a rule that restricts schools from allowing students to change their gender marker on private student records. An open letter calling for his resignation has been signed by 350 local, state and national organizations, per ABC News. Raichik previously targeted an OPS school in 2022, leading to the firing of a queer teacher, according to The Oklahoman.