News, On Campus

Trans* Collective and QLC Host Vigil Honoring Nex Benedict

A banner reading “Rest in Power Nex” hung over the fireplace in the O’Connell House as students, faculty, and members of the Boston College community came together to honor and mourn Nex Benedict.

“May our collective sorrow be heard,” said Nathan Schirtzinger, Queer Leadership Council (QLC) associate director and MCAS ’24. “Nex was a light. Nex is a light. We must be a light. This is my prayer.”

The Trans* Collective and the QLC hosted a vigil Thursday evening to honor the life of Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died on Feb. 8 after a physical altercation with another student at their Oklahoma high school.

While the cause of death is still being investigated, police said on Wednesday that Benedict did not die as a result of injuries sustained during the altercation.

According to Claire Mengel, co-founder of the Trans* Collective and QLC intersectionality coordinator, the vigil was designed to provide a space for people to pause and remember Benedict, even if others have moved on.

“My main motivation for planning tonight was to take the time to stop, to recognize that things have changed, to let you know that none of us are alone in this grief,” Mengel, MCAS ’26, said. “Even as the world seems to continue on, our community will hold Nex in our memory.”

Mengel said they hoped honoring and sharing Benedict’s story would strengthen the fight against anti-transgender sentiment.

“It is unjust to grieve for Nex without holding a deep commitment to fighting back against all of these symptoms and systems of prejudice, hate, and violence,” Mengel said. “I hope that as we take this time to grieve, to be in community, that this time also deepens that commitment within each of us.” 

H Edwards, co-founder of the Trans* Collective and QLC policy coordinator, said Benedict’s school failed them.

“The school failed Nex,” Edwards, MCAS ’26, said. “They failed to call him an ambulance after knowing he was beaten. The school failed to recognize the bullying taking place. And the school suspended Nex for two weeks following this incident.”

Despite the fact that Benedict was failed by existing systems, they were loved by many, Edwards said. 

“This is a devastating loss—[it] breaks my heart to know that the world treated someone so young and so deserving of love and respect so wrong,” Edwards said. “So despite our systems failing Nex, he was deeply loved at home. Nex touched so many people’s lives—family and friends—and he was truly special.”

QLC freshman representative Maeve Yurcisin, MCAS ’27, shared a poem they wrote in honor of Benedict.

“For the children you told me, lower your voice, but the way I see it, this is my only choice,” Yuricisin read. “You claim to know better, that I have no respect and lament the loud voices of a generation wrecked.”

Chuck Bacciocco, MCAS ’26 and an attendee of the vigil, said society must grow and learn to accept trans and nonbinary individuals.

“All nonbinary, transgender individuals bring a beautiful light and perspective into everyday situations and conversations,” Bacciocco said. “It would be a great disservice to the queer community, to this University, this country, and this world if we choose to look at nonbinary and transgender individuals as any lesser than ourselves.”

According to Mengel, the substantial number of trans people who die before attending college leaves many trans college students with a burden.

“There’s a burden of being trans and queer in college, of carrying the memories of so many of our siblings that didn’t make it here,” Mengel said. “My greatest joys and accomplishments here will always be accompanied by an anger and grief for the people who had every right to be standing next to me in those moments.”

According to Mengel, being together as a community is especially important at BC. 

“It is important that we are here together because we go to Boston College, and this campus is isolating,” Mengel said.

Mengel concluded the vigil by reminding attendees to keep one another in mind. 

“My final ask is that as we go our separate ways tonight—on break and in the coming semester—that you all remember that we are here for each other and with each other, and that is important,” Mengel said.

March 1, 2024