News (USA)

Calls to LGBTQ+ youth crisis line skyrocket after death of Nex Benedict

A suicidal woman in need calls the National Suicide Hotline
Photo: Shutterstock

In the weeks following transgender teenager Nex Benedict’s death, an LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention line maintained by Rainbow Youth Project USA saw a 238% rise in crisis calls from Oklahoma.

Benedict died suddenly the day after being violently attacked by three girls. He reportedly poured water on girls who he said were bullying him for “the way he dressed.” This led to them assaulting Benedict in the restroom, a fight from which he reportedly “blacked out.” The next day, he collapsed in his living room. He died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Benedict, an indigenous 16-year-old from Owasso, Oklahoma used he/him and they/them pronouns with friends at school while using they/them with family at home. It is reported by NBC Out that he preferred he/him pronouns.

Police are currently investigating the cause of Benedict’s death, having stated officially that Benedict “did not die as a result of trauma.” However, a spokesperson for the police said to NBC Out that the fight is not ruled out as a contributor to Benedict’s death. Police are awaiting a toxicology report before making any final conclusions.

The Department of Education has launched an investigation following a complaint by the Human Rights Campaign, which alleged that Benedict endured gender-based discrimination while attending Owasso School District and that the school district failed to adequately respond to these issues. Benedict reportedly was previously the victim of anti-trans bullying.

Rainbow Youth Project USA typically receives an average of 325 to 350 calls a month from Oklahoma to their hotline. However, following news of Benedict’s death, the total call volume increased to 1,097, nearly 1,000 of which occurred after news of Benedict’s death began to spread. 

The majority – over 80% – of the calls were related to bullying incidents within Oklahoma schools, with a particularly high call volume seen from Owasso. Lance Preston, founder of Rainbow Youth Project USA, sent an email following a news conference with the Human Rights Campaign stating that he believes this increase is in part due to more awareness of the hotline.

“This increase… reveals the need for these support services and for mental health services and for allies for these young people,” Preston told CNN. “We’ve seen a rapid increase in those calls because kids are scared, they are worried and they are hurting,”

The situation led Rainbow Youth Project USA to create a rapid response team for Oklahoma.

Preston further elaborated on the source of the calls, saying “I would say, up to 15% of those calls are from concerned parents, who are asking what their rights are under Title IX, what can they do to persuade schools to be more proactive against reports of bullying instead of reactive.”

According to NBC News, some of the calls were related to a protest organized by the far-right hate group Westboro Baptist Church. The group posted on its website misgendering Benedict and blaming him for the fight. Many students reported fears that this protest would trigger additional anti-LGBTQ+ violence in the state.

Oklahoma’s state policies regarding transgender youth have been cited nationally by activists as contributing to anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in the state. This includes bills banning gender-affirming care for minors and legally defining gender based on sex assigned at birth.

In 2022, the state implemented a ban on transgender students using bathrooms that align with their gender identity, forcing them to use restrooms aligned with their sex assigned at birth. Activists say this is why Benedict was using the same restroom as the girls who assaulted him.

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at The Trans Lifeline (1-877-565-8860) is staffed by trans people and will not contact law enforcement. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for youth via chat, text (678-678), or phone (1-866-488-7386). Help is available at all three resources in English and Spanish.

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

LGBTQ+ voters are more moderate than you think. But the GOP has alienated them all.

Previous article

Thousands protest after a 200-person mob chased a trans couple out of a film festival

Next article