We shouldn’t know their name, but after what has transpired, it’s important we remember our dead. Nex Benedict was a 16-year-old nonbinary, genderfluid student at Owasso High School in Oklahoma. On February 7th, while Nex was in the girls bathroom with their friend, three older students came in and beat them up. It was reported that Nex’s head was smashed into the floor multiple times. They could not walk to the nurses office without assistance. No teachers or school staff called an ambulance for them.

According to Sue Benedict, Nex’s mother, “Nex was a straight-A student who enjoyed reading, art, their cat Zeus, creating new recipes, and playing video games like Minecraft.” Nex and their family are a part of the Choctaw Nation and they lived on the Cherokee reservation.

On February 24th, local trans artists and organizers in Greater Portland saw that the Trans Advocacy Coalition of Oklahoma was holding a vigil for Nex Benedict. It was a swift decision to hold space for our grief and rage here in solidarity. Roughly 60 people joined on the very cold Sunday evening with less than 24 hour notice. A testament to the need for community in this difficult time.

Speakers at the Portland vigil included Sampson Spadafore (they/he) and RBoots Shertzer (they/them), lead organizers in the vigil, as well as a local trans and queer youth, and Osgood (they/them), the executive director of Portland Outright. Because of the short notice, members of the Wabanaki Two Spirit Alliance could not be in attendance, however it was an honor to share their words of grief at the event.

After our moment of silence, organizers opened the mic to allow community members to speak. Members of all ages and backgrounds, different experiences, both trans and allied, came to the mic to share about their grief, their fears, their justified rage, and their solidarity. 

The following are some of the words shared by Spadafore, who acted as emcee for the evening.


When we lose a trans person somewhere, that loss is felt everywhere. We are here in solidarity with them. We grieve this loss and we share the deep sorrow they are feeling.

Nex suffered a long history of bullying. First, they were bullied for their indigeneity, then for their gender identity. Their death came after the Oklahoma Education Department superintendent Ryan Walters confirmed that Chaya Raichik, otherwise known online as Libs of TikTok, would serve on the state’s Library Media Advisory Committee. For those who may not know, Libs of TikTok is a rightwing account and has gained an extreme rightwing following across multiple platforms. Raichik calls teachers, schools, queer and trans activists, and our supporters “groomers.” Multiple times, when teachers and schools are being put on blast by Libs of TikTok, they receive bomb and death threats. And now this person is to be a Library Media Advisor for the entire state of Oklahoma.

It is clear that there is a direct correlation between the state legislators’ false, inflammatory rhetoric about trans people and physical harm on the streets to our community. We have seen this before. It is a tale as old as this settler colonialist, patriarchal, capitalist hell hole of a country. But our demonization must stop today.

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Pictured speaking at last night’s vigil is Trans Artist and Organizer, RBoots Shertzer. Photo by Sampson Spadafore

We are here to stand against oppression, to stand up for safety and the ability to thrive for all trans youth everywhere, and to fight for our collective liberation. We use the time honored tradition of marching in the street to pay homage to those who came before us, who are no longer with us, as we come together in solidarity with Nex and their family.

When I say we are fighting for our collective liberation, I do not just mean trans folks, not just white trans folks. I mean all of us who experience oppression under these systems and structures created for and by Rich White Cis Hetero Men. Our Collective Liberation does not happen without the liberation of Two Spirit people. Our Collective Liberation does not happen without the liberation of Black and Brown Queer and Trans people. Our Collective Liberation does not happen without the liberation of Palestine. Our Collective Liberation does not happen without liberation of Queer and Trans Palestinians who are on their land or in the diaspora. Not without all of those oppressed by settler colonialism.

Our liberation does not happen without you.

We all need each other in this fight, because we are all connected. The oppressor will have you thinking that your fight for education, or your fight for reproductive health, or your fight for a livable wage, or your fight for universal health care, or your fight for gender liberation, or your fight for reparations, or your fight for disability justice, or your fight for immigrants, or your fight to end homelessness isn’t tied up together in the same damn knot but it is. 

We need each other and we need each other now!

In the state of Maine and across the U.S., trans people everywhere deserve safety in school, work, and all aspects of life. We deserve dignity and protection from violence. This is a call for our legislators, our city councilors, our teachers, our doctors, our community leaders, to take trans safety seriously. We are under attack and we all must fight back.

There was a recent initiative to make Maine a sanctuary state for trans youth seeking refuge from other states where it’s become hostile or even illegal to transition. Places like Oklahoma. Unfortunately this bill had some flaws, so they decided to vote it down to rewrite and resubmit this bill with stronger, more accurate language. We need to let our Maine legislators know that we want this bill put forward again and that we support its passage. We demand that Maine becomes a safe place for Trans people everywhere!

Maine legislators are currently considering a tribal sovereignty bill, LD 2007, to restore the inherent right of the Wabanaki Nations in Maine to self-govern within their respective territories in accordance with the same federal laws that govern tribal lands elsewhere in the U.S. This Bill addresses long-standing issues with a land claims act passed in 1980 that governs the relationship between the state and the tribes in Maine. The Wabanaki Alliance has created an incredible toolkit for supporting this bill. I am asking everyone here to go to wabanakialliance.com, find out more about the bill LD 2007, and call your representatives. We are here to demand the Wabanaki People in Maine gain their longer overdue tribal sovereignty!

Keep fighting, keep grieving, keep showing up for your community. Love to you all and stay safe.


The following are organizations we encourage you to donate to in support of Oklahoma’s Queer and Trans community.

Trans Advocacy Coalition of Oklahoma, Freedom Oklahoma, Oklahomans for Equality, and The Rainbow Youth Project.

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Portrait of Nex Benedict, by Artist/Organizer Hale Linnet. You can find their art at https://instagram.com/halelinnetart/