Metro Weekly

GLAAD, Task Force, HRC React to Nex Benedict Autopsy Report

LGBTQ organizations place blame with adults who failed to address bullying that may have contributed to Benedict's suicide.

Nex Benedict in the hospital, as seen in a police body camera video. – Photo: Owasso Police Department

Following the news on March 13 that the Oklahoma Medical Examiner had declared the death of Nex Benedict a suicide, LGBTQ groups lamented the nonbinary teen’s death and demanded accountability from officials whom they allege allowed bullying to take place at the teenager’s high school.

According to a summary report from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office, Benedict died of “combined toxicity” caused by an interaction between diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl, an anti-allergy medication, and fluoxetine, a drug used to treat depression that is more commonly known as Prozac.

The medical examiner’s summary report does not indicate how the manner of death was determined to be a suicide, versus an accidental death, and does not include details as to what dosage of the respective drugs were in Benedict’s system at the time of their death.

A spokesperson for the Medical Examiner’s Office did not respond to Metro Weekly‘s question about the dosage of each drug Benedict allegedly took that caused them to collapse at their home on February 8.

The national LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD expressed skepticism concerning the medical examiner’s findings.

“There is nothing in this one-page document to explain why the medical examiner checked a box. Media must have learned by now that they need to continue to question what they get from law enforcement and government entities in Oklahoma that have so far failed to protect vulnerable students and responsibly provide any information that is critical for student safety,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement.

Nex Benedict‘s family and the entire state of Oklahoma deserve far more answers and accountability from those charged with keeping Nex and all youth safe.”

Ellis also noted that Benedict had told police, during their interview in the hospital, that they had endured “months” of bullying in school, and did not believe the school would do anything to address the bullying. Based on since-criticized statements from the officer, Ellis said it appears police sought to discourage Benedict’s family from reporting the incident. 

“It remains imperative that school environments reject bullying in all its forms,” Ellis added.

Kierra Johnson, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, lamented the loss of Benedict’s life in a statement.

“The death of Nex Benedict and reports that Nex took their own life continue to break our hearts, frustrate us, and anger us — this also moves us to action,” Johnson said, also pointing to the lack of intervention or assistance Benedict received prior to their death.

“Every system that should have protected Nex and supported their education and safety did not do their jobs. In the current climate, we know that Nex is not alone, as we continue to see attacks on trans and non-binary people, especially our young people,” Johnson said, decrying a prevailing “culture of hostility and bullying” of transgender and nonbinary youth in the United States.

“The encouraging news is that youth suicide isn’t a disease that has no cure,” Johnson added. “It is almost entirely preventable with the courage, responsibility, love, and attention of adults in school, faith communities, and family.”

Freedom Oklahoma, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, told ABC News that Benedict’s death — even if by suicide — highlights the hostility aimed towards the transgender and gender-nonconforming communities, which can lead youth to contemplate suicide.

“[Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-nonconforming] students are the ones at risk; they are under attack in their schools, and they are under a coordinated attack by extremist politicians who care more about soundbites than children’s lives,” the organization said in a statement. “Nex’s death occurred during a nationwide effort to push 2SLGBTQ+ people out of public life and back into the closets.”

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign released its own statement condemning the type of bullying that Benedict claimed they were subjected to in school.

“As parents, we send our kids to school expecting that they will be safe and cared for,” the statement read. “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.”

Benedict’s death occurred on the day after they became involved in a physical altercation with three girls inside an Owasso High School bathroom.

Administrators eventually broke up the fight, and determined that those involved did not require immediate transport to the hospital. However, they advised Benedict’s family to take them to the hospital for a precautionary check-up.

While Benedict was at the hospital, an officer from the Owasso Police Department interviewed the teen on camera, at which point Benedict admitted to pouring water on the three girls for allegedly mocking them and a transgender friend who was in the bathroom at the time.

Police later confirmed that it was Benedict’s family, and not school officials, who first alerted them of the fight and the desire of Benedict’s mother to pursue assault charges against the other students involved in the melee.

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