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These powerful tributes to slain LGBTQ+ teen Nex Benedict remind us of the healing power of art

These powerful tributes to slain LGBTQ+ teen Nex Benedict remind us of the healing power of art

Nex Benedict tribute art
Instagram: @thefoxfisher, @annaparade, @tracyrectorart

Despite the tragedy, Nex Benedict will be remembered as a talented artist who always brightened any room he was in.

Nex Benedict Tribute Art

Instagram: @thefoxfisher, @ask_educator, @tracyrectorart

The death of 16-year-old Nex Benedict has deeply shaken the LGBTQ+ community across the U.S., shedding a light on the harrowing reality facing queer youth in an environment where their own leaders disparage their identities.

Amid the tragedy, members of the community have also been spurred to action. As protests and vigils erupt across the country, tributes are pouring in from celebrities, activists, and artists online to honor Benedict, whose friends remember the teen as a talented artist who always brightened any room he was in.

Benedict, 16, had reported being bullied for months before he was involved in a physical confrontation in a school restroom with three older girls on February 7. The teen told law enforcement that the girls "jumped" him and his friend “because of the way that we dressed." Benedict then died on February 8 after being transported to a hospital following a medical emergency at home.

The Owasso police department said in a statement last week that preliminary findings indicate trauma was not the cause of the teen’s death, while noting an official cause had not been confirmed. Sue Benedict, Nex’s grandmother and adoptive mother, called the statement a “big cover” that was put out only as “something to calm the people."

A department official then walked back parts of the statement, clarifying that the medical examiner has not ruled that trauma did not cause the death, and confirming that there’s still the possibility of a murder charge.

As the community waits for answers, students at Owasso High School held a vigil and a walkout to both honor Benedict, and to put pressure on school staff and law enforcement for what they say were missteps in handling both Benedict's case and the broader epidemic of bullying against LGBTQ+ students.

Benedict's past and current partners spoke at the vigil Sunday alongside his friends. His partner, Spencer, who went by only his first name, said that Benedict "was always one of the brightest kids in the room, whether he would smile or not.”

Benedict's friend, Ally, who also went by only their first name at the vigil, said that the teen could spend just 30 minutes working on a piece of art and it would become a “masterpiece." They also recalled Benedict's fearlessness in standing up for himself or other bullied students, stating: “They were always someone who was never afraid to be who they are."

Benedict's death has also been likened to other prominent cases of violence against queer youth, such as those of Matthew Sheppard and Tyler Clementi, the mothers of whom recently told The Advocate that Oklahoma's legislators are partially to blame.

Other activists have also cited Oklahoma’s anti-trans policies – including a new law that bars students from using the school restroom that aligns with their gender identity – while discussing what led to the bullying and beating that resulted in Benedict’s death.

As the world grapples with the tragedy, here are some of our favorite tributes to Nex that both honor his legacy and encourage action.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Ryan Adamczeski