Joint Statement Honoring Nex Benedict and Demanding the Upholding of Dignity for Non-Binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ Children and Youth

 


LAME DEER – National Indigenous Resource Center (NIWRC) and the Los Angeles LGBT Center write this joint statement condemning the death of 16-year-old Nex Benedict (Choctaw) following an assault committed while Nex was in a school bathroom in Owasso, Oklahoma that was preceded by persistent and ongoing bullying from student peers.

All children should be able to expect a duty of care and a safe learning environment that is identity affirming. Unfortunately, in the State of Oklahoma, pervasive and bigoted sentiments supported by recent anti-trans legislation have resulted in a profound lack of safety for 2SLGBTQAI+ students. There is a strong correlation between anti-trans bills and the uptick of violence against 2SLGBTQAI+ and non-binary children and youth.1

We firmly believe the following:

Non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ children and youth are a vibrant part of our past, present, and our future generations. Non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ children and youth have been a valuable part of our Tribal Nations since time immemorial.

In Indian country, we have a duty to care for our relatives. We have a responsibility to uphold the teachings of our Nations and to ensure that the next seven generations have a safe place to exist.

As anti-violence organizations, we have an affirmative duty to address oppression in all forms, uphold our collective right to safety, strengthen access to responsive resources, and hold individuals and institutions accountable.

Non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ children and youth deserve to learn in identity affirming spaces, free of violence and free of bullying.2

Non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ children and youth deserve to thrive: to grow up, to lead healthy and long lives, and to have their well-being prioritized.

Non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ children and youth deserve to be honored as they identify. To be clear, this includes respecting and honoring pronouns, respecting and honoring names, and allowing trans people to access bathrooms and public accommodations that align with their gender identity without judgment, bias, or violence.

It is abhorrent that anyone would use the killing of a child to justify their prejudices, bigotry, limited ideologies, and self-expressions of internalized oppression. Non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ children and youth deserve to engage in the modern social and digital world without experiencing debates about their validity. Children deserve a soft place to exist, a caring world that embraces and celebrates each of them.

The life of a child is not a political pawn. Nex was a child, a grandchild, a relative, a community member, a peer…a future promise.

Our organizations uplift the statement of the Center for Native Youth (CNAY) and other relative organizations across Indian country and in 2SLGBTQAI+ communities who have specific demands and calls for action. We want to start by calling attention to the asks of Native Youth specifically from CNAY, which is that we ALL start asking “difficult questions of our school districts across the country and demand that they stand against violence by:

Committing to implementing a comprehensive anti-bullying education in the classroom.

Setting actionable consequences for gender and sexual orientation violence within schools.

Establishing a school safety plan and protocol when violence erupts in a school setting with strict adherence to these established plans and protocols.3

Our Organizations also uplift the following:

We must recognize and confront the violence that anti-trans legislation incites while ensuring that school communities support the safety and well-being of non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ children and youth. There is ample testimony, congressionally, and otherwise, that details the rates of violence (homicide, assault, sexual assault, strangulation, trafficking, stalking, family violence, dating violence) against non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ children and youth, percentages of representation across other intersectional issues (such as homelessness/foster care involvement) and self-harm and suicide. For information on current and pending legislation, please visit https://translegislation.com/.

Educators and administrators, who are responsible for student safety, MUST be robustly held accountable for their failures in upholding their legal duties and the obligations of their profession.

Law enforcement and other related agencies must comply with their obligations to thoroughly investigate the killing of Nex Benedict and the abject failures of other adults in keeping Nex safe, especially if those adults had both a duty of care and the knowledge of ongoing/persistent harm (including their inability to address repeated acts of bullying, violence, and targeting that occurred allegedly on school grounds).

Nex Benedict, their family, friends, peers, and Tribal Nation are entitled to transparency from this investigative process.

The media, the alt-media, politicians, policymakers, social media personalities, podcasters, organizations, and individuals must refrain from debating the validity of this child’s identity and lived-experiences, the statement of the family and Nex’s caretakers, and MUST engage in affirming language that honors Nex. 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health. A majority of those trans youth (55%) said it impacted their mental health “very negatively.”

Tribal Governments should be mindful right now of what their citizens, descendants, and community members are experiencing as a result of the increasingly small and frightening world that non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ children and youth have been forced to survive in.

During the pendency of the investigation, funding should be provided for the family to hire an outside/independent medical or forensic specialist for an independent autopsy. We also suggest a unique death review, concurrent to and independent of the medical examiner’s office and law enforcement (not to interfere or to harm the likelihood of success of any prosecutions) to fully understand the points of failure across a longer trajectory of Nex’s life. This should not mirror death reviews like those utilized in domestic violence and child welfare cases, but should be established as a group of multi-disciplinary individuals, subject matter experts, members of Nex’s community, Nex’s family (if they choose), and advocates. The goal of this review should be to identify specific gaps, failures, possible points of intervention, comprehensive timelines, key individuals, needed resources, and systems, policies and practices that contributed to the killing of Nex. The importance of the leading role of non-binary and 2SLGBTQAI+ members of such a proposed review should not be understated, but instead centered. This review should be adequately funded, and compliance with requests of the reviewing panel should be mandatory (where those requests do not violate tribal, federal, state, or local law). A report and hearing should be held as a result of the findings established by the reviewing panel at the state and federal levels.

We are heartbroken about the loss of this member of our community. Our Organizations hold Nex’s family close during this time and amplify their call for privacy. In our collective efforts, we will continue to advocate for the safety and well-being of ALL Native children.

 

Reader Comments(0)

 
 

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2024