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“We Need Change!” Mourners Fume While Mourning Death of Nonbinary Student in Oklahoma City Vigil

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A picture of People gathered at a memorial
Source: AmyEchos/X

Hundreds of people assembled on Saturday in Oklahoma City to honor Nex Benedict. His death stirred widespread sorrow and anger nationwide after a confrontation in a high school bathroom led to his demise.

Interest in the high school sophomore’s death has surged over the past week. This is especially due to Nex’s gender-expansive identity and the circumstances leading to the altercation at Owasso High School on Feb 7.

He used the pronouns he/him and they/them and was part of the LGBTQ+ community, according to friends and family. The exact details of the fight remain unclear, but Nex’s family and friends have stated that they were routinely bullied due to their gender identity.

Medical examiners are still completing their investigation into Nex’s cause of death. However, police have mentioned that an autopsy determined they did not die as a result of trauma. The family held a funeral service for the teen on Feb 15.

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“It is important for us as a community to come together to show our support for our young people, to let them know that it is okay for them to be who they are no matter — trans, bi, straight, poly — no matter who they are, they can be themselves and be who they are in the open and not have to hide because I was one of those people that had to hide as a lesbian,” Bevan told The Oklahoman, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Kathleen Hanlon shared that she read about Nex’s death and felt compelled to attend the candlelight service. “I can’t quit thinking about it,” she expressed. “I feel so bad.”

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The vigil, organized by Rural Oklahoma Pride and Point A Gallery, was among several memorial events held throughout Oklahoma on Saturday. Bryan Paddock, a co-founder of Rural Oklahoma Pride, stated that their organization aimed to unite people, emphasizing that a vigil is a moment to “light the pathway forward” by taking a stand together.

“We lost a member of our community – they may have been young, but they were lost to us way too soon,” he said.

“This is us taking a stand for that person as well as our community. We need change in Oklahoma. We need change in the United States. That youth was not protected as they should have been, and there’s so much legislation out there that is seeking to erase or dispose of our community.”

ALSO READ: Multiple Transgender Deaths Spark Outrage Among LGBTQ Community in Mexico

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Kendra Wilson-Clements, who is Choctaw, delivered a blessing at the start of the event. The blessing conveyed the love many attendees felt for Nex, even though they had never met them.

“As you journey beyond this realm, may the strength and wisdom of our ancestors guide you,” Wilson-Clements said, addressing Nex. “Rest in power, knowing that you are loved, cherished, and held in everlasting remembrance.”

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