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Statement on Anti-LGBTQIA+ Violence and the Death of Nex Benedict

On February 8, 16-year-old Nex Benedict died just one day after being beaten by peers in an Owasso High School restroom. Nex, who was nonbinary, was the target of bullying and harassment.

Our hearts broken, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities stands in solidarity with those grieving this horrific tragedy. We mourn with Nex’s family, friends, and communities in Owasso, Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation, and Choctaw Nation. We share the pain and anger trans and gender-expansive communities are experiencing throughout the United States.

In a message to the United community shared Thursday, President Molly T. Marshall was unequivocal: “The growing attacks on LGBTQIA+ persons is cause for grave alarm and action. We must name this atrocity and strive to live in ways that acknowledge the rights of all to live in safety.” She continued, “At United, we see and treasure all gender expressions. We strive to be a safe haven for persons who have been traumatized by religious and cultural dismissiveness.”

Rev. Dr. Justin Sabia-Tanis, United’s associate professor of social transformation and leadership and a respected trans scholar and advocate, writes, “Non-binary and trans lives are beautiful and sacred. This tragic death shows yet again the incredible cost paid by our young people when politicians exploit public biases. We must protect our youth and their rights to live authentically and freely.”

We must not forget the social and political contexts in which Nex lived. Policymakers in Oklahoma and beyond have targeted LGBTQIA+ people—youth, in particular—by restricting basic civil liberties such as access to gender-affirming care, privacy, and restrooms. Cynical disinformation campaigns, featuring prominently in elections for public office, have dehumanized some of our society’s most vulnerable while depriving them of resources necessary for their survival.

United vociferously condemns the scourge of anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, fear-mongering, and policymaking that makes permissible everything from classroom bullying to legislation that denies basic rights to vulnerable people.

The words of the powerful carry grave consequences. Lives rest in the balance, and it is incumbent upon us to lead boldly, ethically, and compassionately such that our communities, the Church, and society are wholly transformed in the name of justice and peace.

May our grief give way to effective action for LGBTQIA+ lives of every age, gender identity, sexuality, and expression.

Media Contact

Nathanial Green (he/him), Director of Marketing and Communications
United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities • (651) 255-6138

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