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For Nex Benedict

In Love and Rage

for nex benedict in love and rage. Photo of Nex, a smiling white teen in a white button up shirt and dark vest, standing in front of trees.

The children were trained by adults. Trained toward hatred. Trained toward violence. Their fists struck, powered by the voices of their parents, their teachers, and the hatred spewing from their phones.


It was expected, wasn’t it? To gang up against the different one? The one who dressed like a budding dandy, who called themselves Nex, and whose friends knew them as he or they, him or them. Especially when Nex had the temerity to defend himself.

No ambulance was called by the school.

Nex died for no reason other than: some adults cannot allow anyone who looks, or acts, or feels differently than they do to live.


The state school superintendent of Oklahoma—Ryan Walter’s—pushes anti-LGBTQ+ policies. He appointed Chaya Raichik—who does not live in Oklahoma—to an advisory council that oversees the state school libraries. Children are not allowed to change their gender on school records. Owasso High School insists that students use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth.


This scenario is not just happening in Oklahoma. It is happening all over the country. Families are fleeing places from the Southern states through the Northeast… fearing for their children’s lives. But with 463 proposed anti-LGBTQ+ throughout the country, there are scant places left to go.


If you are an adult, and not doing your best right now to help the children in your lives? The different ones. The strange ones. The ones who don’t quite fit the status quo?


You are remiss in your duties.


If you are a parent who cannot find a way to love your own child? I have no words for you. You are not worth my breath.


I’ve written and written and written, about queer joy and queer rage. I’ve written about racial and economic justice. About disability and courage. Those words I wield so cleverly sometimes?


They did not save Nex. To the teens who wielded their parent’s words, pummeling him to the floor? Nex was just another strange, indigenous teen who dared to be himself. Nex became—to them—a thing to be bullied, not a person to be cherished. A person to be saved.


The United States is a dangerous place for trans people right now. It is a frightening place for queer people right now. It always has been, but yes, in this moment, it is also worse. I’ve lived through the decades of gay bashing and the AIDS epidemic, of Matthew Shepherd and too many Black trans women killed to count.


And right now? Some very warped and angry, smug and powerful people are poised against us. Sowing hatred. Promulgating fear. Scaremongering. Engaging in acts of stochastic terrorism that leave too many dead.


Think the Libs of TikTok aren’t coming for you, too? They are. The laws to control bodily autonomy are everywhere. Women are still dying. Birth centers closing. Bathrooms policed. Too many are locked in prisons for no crime other than being poor.


The billionaires don’t care about us.

The politicians don’t care about us.

The shareholders don’t care about us.

They don’t care about the multiple genocides happening, other than finding the ways they can profit. And they cannot profit from queer or trans children. Not enough.


They manipulate us into thinking that someone else is the real problem, the real danger, the real threat. Someone like Nex, who tried to defend himself, and whose soft body fell to the bathroom floor. Someone like a parent at the southern border, worried that their kids won’t make it through the night.


All we have is each other. What are you doing about it? How will you choose to help?


 This essay was made possible by my amazing Patreon supporters. I can't thank them enough.


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I'm both glad that I left the U.S. nearly 20 years ago for work and retirement in Asia. I don't like what has happened to/in the U.S. I realize that our first thought when kids do such horrific things is to blame their parents. It's my first reaction too, until I remember that my son is on the other side of the political fence from me; has, and probably will again, vote for a different person for president from me; has a different stance on just about everything from me. I often wonder how I gave birth and raised this person. We aren't close at all. We live on opposite sides of the world from one another; literally, politically, spiritual…

Replying to

Thank you for your most understanding response to my comment. Yes, there seems to be so much hatred being expressed in the world today. I scares me, especially since I believe in reincarnation and am nearly my age limit for this lifetime. I dread the thought of being born into anything like the current world situation! And, you can add me to that list of kids who were discarded by a parent for "coming out".


Thank you, Thorn, for writing this and sharing it. When I was a young queer, learning about Matthew Shepherd’s murder was something I had to get through, soberly, a lesson to understand what was out there in the world and how to survive long enough to get out of the state I was raised in, a place so close to what happened.

It’s horrifying and heartbreaking to me now that my niblings have to grow up with Nex Benedict’s murder and so many others. Loving rage is absolutely appropriate as we find our way forward together.

Replying to

Yes. Loving rage. Solidarity.


Thanks for writing this Thorn. The world has become so filled with fear, danger, + unwillingness to understand + accept others' differences, that I feel hopeless at times because of the killing + hatred, not feeling that I can do enough to stop it. I'm grateful for your reminders that "all we have are each other". We live in difficult times + have to keep doing our best to support each other to get through the danger. Be well + keep writing - we need you, Ayesha

Replying to

Thank you for your kind words, Ayesha. And here's to showing up for each other. Always.

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