Culture & the Family

Ray Carter | June 17, 2024

Oklahoma library magazine recycles discredited LGBTQ+ story

Ray Carter

An article in the June/July 2024 edition of “info magazine,” the official magazine of the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County, suggests the spring 2024 suicide of an Owasso teen was a product of anti-LGBT attitudes—even though that narrative has been repeatedly discredited.

Police found the 16-year-old’s suicide was unrelated to the youth’s recent dalliance with a self-proclaimed transgender identity and all evidence indicates that a school fight preceding the youth’s suicide was not the result of anti-LGBT attitudes.

In the article, “Exploring Queer Oklahoma’s Rich Tapestry,” Special Collections Librarian Meg Nance Coker wrote, “Yes, we are still mourning the bullying, assault, and tragic death of Nex Benedict, a transmasculine student who should still be with us. The support network that should be present and available to each and every student in our schools and communities missed crucial opportunities, and as a result we lost a loved one much too young.”

The linking of Dagny Benedict’s death to the youth’s recent decision to stop identifying as female and instead identify as a transgender male named “Nex” has been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement officials and several journalists. The reality of the girl’s death is at odds with the political narrative woven around her life.

While attending an in-school suspension class at Owasso, Benedict was involved in a brief fight in the school bathroom on Feb. 7. However, police found the fight may have lasted only one minute and was not related to Benedict’s identifying as nonbinary. No life-threatening injuries resulted from the fight.

The Owasso Police Department issued a statement on Feb. 21 noting that all students involved in the fight “walked under their own power to the assistant principal’s office and nurse’s office,” that each student was “given a health assessment by a registered nurse at the school and it was determined that ambulance service was not required.”

A police interview recorded the day of the fight showed that Benedict admitted to instigating the fight because she believed three girls were mocking the way Benedict laughed and dressed. Benedict also confessed to throwing one girl into a paper-towel dispenser.

Benedict committed suicide on Feb. 8. A state autopsy found the teenager had taken large amounts of Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) along with Prozac.

Benedict left notes related to her suicide. In a March 21 press release, Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler announced that he would not pursue charges against the students involved in the brief school-bathroom fight with Benedict, and also said the suicide notes did “not make any reference to the earlier fight or difficulties at school.” Kunzweiler noted Benedict and the other students were not familiar with each other prior to the class.

To date, no information related to the investigation suggests Owasso school officials were negligent in any way or ignored bullying.

Following Benedict’s suicide, information became public indicating Benedict was brutally abused by her biological father as a young child, leading to significant mental health problems.

An affidavit issued on July 17, 2019, for the arrest of James Everette Hughes, Benedict’s father, showed he was accused of sodomizing the girl when she was nine. Hughes accepted a plea deal for sexual assault in the second degree on November 27, 2019. He was sentenced to five years in prison in Arkansas.

Jeremy Lee Quinn, an independent reporter, was among the first to publish information on Benedict’s abuse.

Benedict struggled with mental-health issues and had previously been prescribed Seroquel, which is used to treat schizophrenia and episodes of mania or depression in patients with bipolar disorder.

Despite those findings, several activist groups have continued to portray Benedict’s suicide as a product of anti-LGBT animus. The library publication is only the latest example in which it has been suggested that Benedict’s death was tied to her recent embrace of a transgender identity rather than the serious problems associated with childhood abuse.

In addition to publishing, “Exploring Queer Oklahoma’s Rich Tapestry,” the Oklahoma County library magazine also informed readers of various events scheduled at county libraries in June and July.

Those events included a “Pride Storytime” at the downtown library on June 22 for children ages “birth to pre-K,” the provision of a “Pride Book Box” for teens and adults visiting the Capitol Hill Library from June 3 to 18, and a “PRIDE Candle Pouring Party” for teens and adults on June 2 at the Warr Acres Library.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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