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Honoring Nex Benedict

We at Pride Foundation are devastated by news of the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old, 2STGNC+, indigenous student from Oklahoma who was attacked and beaten by fellow students in the school bathroom and died the next day. Nex was of Choctaw ancestry and loved reading, drawing, playing Minecraft, and their cat Zeus. They were a child who should still be alive today with their family and friends. 

Our work at Pride Foundation is grounded in the simple, yet revolutionary belief that every person should be able to live safely and openly as their full selves in all the places we call home. As we grieve another violent loss of a member of our beloved community, we’re reminded that their death is not isolated and is a direct result of the way trans and non-binary people are being targeted through dangerous rhetoric and harmful legislation, especially in schools.  

In 2022, the Oklahoma state legislature passed a “bathroom bill” that requires students at public schools and public charter schools to use restrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. School districts that fail to comply risk losing part of their state funding and could be sued by school parents. Since that bill became law, Nex reportedly experienced intensified bullying at school because of their gender identity.   

Since 2020, attacks targeting LGBTQ+ people have increased significantly and The Hill reports that in 2023, “hate crimes motivated by an anti-transgender bias rose more than 35 percent year over year, reaching 338 incidents.” More than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in state legislatures last year with most of those measures aimed at targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ youth.  

In our region — which includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington — there are currently more than 20 anti-trans bills introduced for this legislative cycle. These policies only serve to make schools less safe and to increase the violence and oppression that trans and non-binary people, especially Black and brown trans women, are subjected to every day.  

But legislation is just one pervasive symptom of a culture of backlash we see against so much of the progress for social justice we’ve made in the past decade. The long and devastating reality is that there is an epidemic of violence against trans and non-binary people — and Black trans women in particular, and murders and acts of violence like this are not rare.  

An annual report from The Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) research project by TGEU (Transgender Europe) is one heartbreaking resource that aims to track this reality globally. We know that at least 23 trans and non-binary people were murdered in the US last year though the reported number is likely much lower than the reality — most cases go unreported and the intersections of racism, misogyny, misogynoir, xenophobia, and more, mean that the cases that are reported often receive little attention.  

Since 2016, the work that has evolved to become our Department of CARE (Community Advocacy, Research, and Education) has unapologetically centered BIPOC Trans, Nonbinary, Intersex, and Two-Spirit ancestral knowledge and lives. Our ultimate goal through CARE is to fuel a Northwest region that is inhospitable to homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, and all other forms of harm directed at LGBTQ+ communities. 

Today, Pride Foundation has joined GLAAD, Freedom Oklahoma, GLSEN, HRC, and 350+ civil rights and LGBTQ+ organizations and leaders in signing a letter to the Oklahoma state legislature calling on them to remove Ryan Walters from his position as Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and to begin an investigation into the Oklahoma Department of Education to determine what actions and policies have led to a culture where rampant harassment of LGBTQ+ students has been allowed to go unchecked. 

How You Can Take Action:  

  • Join our demands for action and sign the petition calling for the immediate removal of Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters:  

  • Keep up with anti-trans legislation and know what’s happening in your state. The ACLU and Trans Legislation Tracker are great resources.  

  • Write, call, and email your representatives demanding that they vote against anti-LGBTQ+ bills.   

During a time when we are collectively grieving the loss of one of our beloved community members and reeling from the violence our communities are subjected to, it can feel hard to find hope. But the strength of our community in response to this injustice is a testament to the power we have together to transform our culture so that everyone in our community experiences safety and belonging.  

In Solidarity,  


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