USD Hosts Candlelight Vigil to Honor the Life of Non-Binary Student Nex Benedict
4 mins read

USD Hosts Candlelight Vigil to Honor the Life of Non-Binary Student Nex Benedict

On Wednesday February 28, USD’s Activists for Equality alongside Spectrum: Gender and Sexuality Alliance held a candlelight vigil to honor the life of an Oklahoma non-binary student, Nex Benedict.

Benedict was a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who passed away this past month after an altercation broke out between themselves and their peers in a school bathroom.

Video footage released by the school showed three girls entering into the school’s bathroom shortly before Benedict and their friend entered behind them. It was here that the three students allegedly attacked Benedict and their friend, after they had poured water on the girls for laughing and mocking them.

In an interview with Benedict’s mother, she told law enforcement  this was not the first time Nex was bullied and according to her, Benedict was harassed for more than a year before the incident took place.

There had been no police report issued by Owassa High School about the fight until Benedict was brought to the hospital by relatives later that day.

 Benedict stated in an interview that they had momentarily “blacked out,” while being attacked on the bathroom floor.

Nex had been discharged by the hospital but was later rushed back that same day, before passing away only a few hours later.

The U.S. The Department of Education alongside the Oklahoma Police Department are currently still investigating the exact cause for Benedict’s death, as well as the incidents that led to it.

The results of what happened in the bathroom have left students across the country in fear for both themselves as well as their peers, especially for those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

“In recent years LGBTQIA+ people nationwide have been increasingly targeted through political policy and rhetoric that has contributed to a rising hate crime rate,” said President of Spectrum and USD’s Gender & Sexuality Alliance, Phoebe Smith.

While those who attended the vigil do not know Benedict personally, Smith said it’s important to acknowledge how their death impacts other communities outside of Oklahoma. .

  “By pointing out this injustice we hope to raise more awareness and attention for the correlation between these discriminatory policies, bathroom bills for example, and violence against trans people,” Smith said.

 “Events like this one also allow our communities and allies a chance to process the violence against one of our own,” Smith said.

The candlelight vigil took place in front of USD’s Coyote Legacy Statue. Students  grieved the loss of Benedict’s life, and discussed the resources available for LGBTQ+ individuals within their own communities.

“This event, a memorial for Nex Benedict, was an opportunity for the USD and greater Vermillion community to come together and recognize the growing anti-trans sentiment that facilitated the death of Nex and many other crimes against transgender individuals in recent years,” said Smith.

USD student, Sage Corvus who was in attendance at the vigil, shared their thoughts on the treatment of LGBTQ+ students who are currently living on college campus’.

“We have all seen discrimination before, and we do not deserve to be put into a box that we do not fit into, or ostracized just for being the people that we are,” said Smith. Smith went on to emphasize the ways in which USD students can help prevent discrimination by utilizing their own experiences and voices on and off campus.

 “As students we have the opportunity and community to recognize injustice. We are incredibly lucky to have a supportive campus community that encourages diversity of thought and allows us to host events like this to build community and hopefully, facilitate change,” said Smith. 

Smith went on to describe the overall goal in having programs such as USD’s Activists for Equality and Spectrum: Gender & Sexuality Alliance on campus to host events such as the candlelight vigil.

“Instead of focusing on quantifiable goals for this event, we hope to bring some healing to our communities and shine light on the correlation between harmful anti-trans attitudes and violence against the community,” Smith said.

Spectrum meets every Monday at 7 p.m. in MUC 219.