This Week at the Capitol: Honoring Nex Benedict 🏳️‍⚧️🕯

On Wednesday night, over 250 members of Connecticut’s queer and transgender community and our allies gathered at the Connecticut State Capitol to remember and honor Nex Benedict (he/him/they/them). The vigil, organized by EQCT and many partner organizations, centered the angry, sad, determined and powerful voices of LGBTQ+ young people

A beating in the bathroom of a public high school led to the Nex’s death in Oklahoma. Nex, who identified as transgender, was frequently harassed along with their gender nonconforming friends, but got little meaningful help from responsible adults.

With dehumanizing rhetoric, punitive legislation, and hostile school board takeovers, a nationally orchestrated, right-wing campaign has targeted transgender youth. We stand with those in in Oklahoma who blame Nex’s tragic death on adults who created an environment that empowered bullies.

Here in Connecticut, we can’t be complacent and turn a blind eye to the needs of youth in our own community. On Wednesday night, amazing young people told us what they need: for adults to listen, to respond to their needs, to support their rights, and to protect them.

We ask the State of Connecticut to:

  • Solidify legal protections for queer youth, including correcting the updated guidance from the State Department of Education,
  • Update anti-bullying laws so they do not exclude anonymous reports, which are often made by youth who are not out at home and
  • Work to ban “conversion therapy” and the “trans panic defense” at the federal level

Furthermore, we ask Connecticut school systems to:

  • Implement restorative justice and conflict resolution practices that do not retraumatize bullied students or force them to educate their harassers or educators.
  • Meet demands for accountability by verifying bullying and harassment reports, and conducting third-party evaluations of practices and policies so any gaps in execution can be filled.
  • Center queer youth and celebrate identities year-round with inclusive curriculum, extracurricular activities, and student experiences like proms and graduations are cornerstones of safe, affirming learning environments.
  • Offer trainings on intersectional allyship for students, faculty, and staff, and build them into annual programming.
  • Provide resources to ALL staff, including nurses, social workers, counselors, and monitors so they have a clear understanding of the queer youth experience. These competency trainings should be mandatory and should be led by local queer professionals who work with youth directly.
  • Break the silence and show support for 2SLGBTQIA+ students, faculty, and staff in their communications to school and local community.

Transgender youth and students deserve physical safety and so much more – they deserve to be celebrated and affirmed. They deserve to learn and explore. They deserve freedom and justice. As adults we can do more – and as voters, we will demand more from our elected officials.