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Cook County community members joined together to celebrate the life of 16-year-old Nex Benedict, and support local 2SLGBTQAI+ youth

Mar 04, 2024 06:58AM ● By Content Editor

All photos by Lisa Bauer

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - March 1, 2024

On Friday, March 1st, 2024, over 100 community members joined together to honor the life of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old 2SLGBTQAI+ teen who died after an altercation at an Oklahoma High School in February. The Cook County Pride Committee hosted the event, which consisted of a vigil with speakers, songs, and candles at Harbor Park in Grand Marais, a march to The Hub, and a potluck and music to celebrate Benedict and show support for local 2SLGBTQAI+ youth. Space for grieving and finding support was also available. 

Vigils for Nex (who used they/them pronouns) have taken place all over the US since their death. According to the Associated Press, the teen got into a fight with three girls in a high school bathroom after pouring water on them due to suspected bullying. Nex told the police in released body cam footage that “The girls had been picking on them and their friends because of the way they dressed…”They came at me. They grabbed on my hair. I grabbed onto them. I threw one of them into a paper towel dispenser and then they got my legs out from under me and got me on the ground…additionally adding that the girls then started beating Nex and they blacked out.” In a video recording from the High School, a security guard is seen escorting Nex out after the altercation. Neither police nor EMTs were called by the school.

Benedict’s mother ended up taking Nex to the hospital the evening of the attack, where she then called the police who met them at the hospital. After being monitored at the hospital, Nex was sent home. The next day, their mother called 911 after Nex was found with shallow breathing, eyes rolling back, and curled hands, “According to audio also released by Owasso police”. Paramedics arrived at the house and performed CPR. Nex was transferred to a local hospital where they later died. 

While an official cause of death has not been determined and investigations are still underway, Owasso police shared that the preliminary autopsy results showed that Nex did not die of injuries related to the fight. The official autopsy report, toxicology results, and other ancillary testing results have not yet been released. No charges have been filed at this time. 

Nex’s death has opened more discussions around “Anti-trans polices and political rhetoric over gender identity,” according to The Associated Press. It has also drawn criticism towards politicians, including Oklahoma Govenor Gov. Kevin Stitt, who aren’t doing more to support and protect 2SLGBT+ students. 

Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan specifically called out Stitt in an interview with ICT (formerly Indian Country Today), who passed a bathroom law specifying a person must use the bathroom of their assigned gender in 2022. “...These are very intentional choices by decision-makers, she said before adding, “The system failed Nex.” 

Locally, Cook County is not exempt from the controversy around 2SLGBT+ community members. The Cook County Pride Committee submitted a letter to the Cook County News Herald (CCNH) titled “Cook County Pride Committee Call-In in Support of 2SLGBTQIA+ Youth” after the death of Nex, and after a letter to the editor was published the week prior with concerns over the Cook County High School trans-inclusive bathrooms. 

The “call-in” published in the CCNH started with the following: 

““If something is not done before next year, somebody is going to get killed. With more queer students coming into our school every year, they would probably not feel safe with the way it currently is on campus”

That quote is of a student at Cook County High School (CCHS) who has been subjected to gender and sexuality-based violence from their peers. Not a month after this student shared these concerns came news of the death of Nex Benedict…”

The letter goes on to say “CCHS students continue to report gender and sexuality-based violence. It is our responsibility to bridge the gap between inclusive policy and inclusive practice.”

Which brings us back to tonight’s vigil. According to Rev Enno K. Limvere, First Congregational United Church of Christ,  "Cook County Pride is grateful for the community of Cook County and our youth and students in coming together to call attention to the violence that LGBTQA+ youth face every day. Tonight is about honoring Nex Benedict and sharing our fears about the safety and well-being of the youth in our county and country. We also gather together to lift up and celebrate the diversity of who the youth are and the journey they are on. All are loved, they are enough, and each is worthy to live their life, identity, and to love who they want."

Upcoming: Winter Pride Event

Drag Story Hour, OutFront MN Presentation, Free Dinner Provided

March 16th, CC Community Center Log Cabin, 1-6pm

2SLGBTQIA+ Youth Support Group

Contact Al at [email protected] for more information

Two songs were sung during the event. You can find the lyrics and a link to the song on YouTube below: 

Courage to be who you are

We are here (v2 Standing) (v3 Singing) in the memory of those who have fallen

Those who have fallen, those who have fallen

We are here (v2 Standing) (v3 Singing) in the memory of those who have fallen

here (v2 Standing) (v3 Singing)  for the courage to be who we are

Courage to be who we are

Fear not the Pain-


Fear not the pain

Let its weight fall back into the earth

For heavy are the mountains

Heavy are the seas

Candles were distributed before songs were sung by all in Harbor Park Friday evening in Grand Marais.

Vigil march

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here