Biden 'Heartbroken' After Oklahoma Teen Nex Benedict's Cause Of Death Announced

President Joe Biden released a statement on Thursday honoring the life of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary Oklahoma student who was found to have died by suicide after they were assaulted in a school bathroom last month.

“Jill and I are heartbroken by the recent loss of Nex Benedict. Every young person deserves to have the fundamental right and freedom to be who they are, and feel safe and supported at school in their communities,” Biden said in the statement. “Nex Benedict, a kid who just wanted to be accepted, should still be here with us today.”

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma medical examiner ruled that the 16-year-old died from toxicity of an antihistamine and an antidepressant, according to reports.

“Nonbinary and transgender people are some of the bravest Americans I know,” Biden continued. “But nobody should have to be brave just to be themselves. In memory of Nex, we must all recommit to our work to end discrimination and address the suicide crisis impacting too many nonbinary and transgender children.”

On Feb. 7, Benedict was assaulted by three other students in an Owasso High School bathroom. In police footage released last month, Benedict described how students “jumped” them after Benedict threw water at them. Benedict told an officer that they were bullied “because of the way that [they] dress.”

Benedict’s death made national headlines and put a spotlight on the increasingly hostile climate many trans and nonbinary students face at school. States and school boards nationwide have increasingly adopted anti-LGBTQ policies that block trans students from using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity and bar them from participating in school sports, among other restrictions.

A recent report from the Trevor Project showed that 36% of LGBTQ+ youth surveyed believe they are not likely to live to the age of 35 — and many of those youth reported high levels of anxiety, depression and self-harm.

“While this horrific loss has seized national attention, we also know that, tragically, it is not uncommon,” Peggy Rajski, interim CEO of the Trevor Project, said in a statement on Thursday. “LGBTQ+ young people are more than four times more likely to die by suicide than their peers — not because there is any predisposition in their identity, but because of the tremendous stressors, rejection, and antagonism that many of them face in society.”

Throughout his presidency, Biden has said that protecting and expanding LGBTQ rights is a priority for his administration. He has reversed many Trump-era anti-LGBTQ policies and has issued numerous executive orders to protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, especially in schools.

Earlier this month, the Department of Education opened an investigation into the Owasso Public School District to examine whether the district failed to follow Title IX guidelines around sex-based harassment.

At the State of the Union last week, Biden addressed transgender Americans with his longstanding catchphrase: “I have your back!” He also called on Congress to pass the Equality Act, a landmark LGBTQ+ rights law that has been stuck in committee for years as Republicans have threatened to filibuster.

“My prayers are with Nex’s family, friends, and all who loved them — and to all LGBTQI+ Americans for whom this tragedy feels so personal, know this: I will always have your back,” Biden said Thursday.

If you or someone you know needs help, call or text 988 or chat for mental health support. Additionally, you can find local mental health and crisis resources at Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.