Montreal vigil mourns the death of trans teen Nex Benedict

After the 16-year-old died following an attack at school, the Montreal community gathered to grieve and advocate for the protection of trans youth.

Trigger warning: transphobia, transicide.

“I have a question for Nex’s killers: how many more do you want to take? […] When will you stop treating trans lives as disposable? When will you stop treating Indigenous and Two-Spirit lives as disposable?” Trans-activist Celeste Trianon proclaimed to the crowd, “You’ve already got so much blood on your hands; they can’t get any redder.” 

On March 1, over 100 people gathered in Montreal’s Cabot Square to commemorate the death of 16-year-old Nex Benedict, an Indigenous non-binary youth from Oklahoma. 

One month ago, on Feb. 7, Benedict was attacked and beaten by three girls in the washroom of Owasso High School in Oklahoma. On the day of the attack, Benedict was taken to the hospital by their mom, Sue Benedict, and sent home after assessment. The following day, they collapsed at home and were rushed to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

After a thorough investigation, the police ruled Benedict’s death as a suicide on March 13.

A number of vigils memorializing their passing have been held across Canada and the United States. Montreal’s vigil was organized by Atreyu Lewis and Rising from Our Roots, an anti-oppression community organization that provides funds and resources.

Despite the incident taking place outside of Canada, organizers of the event made it clear that Benedict’s death has an impact on Indigenous and queer communities worldwide. “I think it’s really important because we want to establish transnational solidarity with what is happening in the U.S.,” Lewis said.

“I think a lot of trans LGBTQ+ people in Canada really want to […] have that tangible action. Especially since it can be hard to do it on the ground [in the U.S.] because of all of the policies.”

Candles were laid out alongside the cement surrounding the signs honouring Nex Benedict. Courtesy photo by Youssef Baati / The Concordian

On social media, they emphasized the vigil aimed to hold space for BIPOC LGBTQ+ people in Montreal as well as to commemorate and grieve the death of their non-binary Chahta peer.

Attendees were encouraged to bring candles, lights, flowers, and sacred items. The vigil included a smudging ceremony; an Indigenous practice in which herbs and resins are burned to purify the mind, body, and spirit.

Since Benedict’s death became public, school officials in the district have faced extreme backlash. Oklahoma’s superintendent for public schools, Ryan Walter, has been adamant in his anti-transgender stance since being appointed to his role in 2022. Later that year, Oklahoma became the first state in the U.S. to prohibit the use of non-binary gender markers on birth certificates. 

The U.S. Department of Education has launched a federal investigation into the Oklahoma school district after the Human Rights Campaign filed a complaint.

Benedict’s loved ones reported that Benedict had been experiencing bullying for more than a year leading up to the incident. Their death has renewed the fight against the growing number of anti-trans bills in the U.S., which many queer advocates say played a vital hand in the teen’s death.

Lewis explained that attending protests, advocating for trans rights in policy, and ensuring spaces are accessible and diverse are ways to help protect trans-BIPOC folks. “Learn about the trans and queer people in your life and show up to support them,” they said. Lewis also mentioned Project 10 Montreal, which is a nonprofit community organization that supports 2SLGBTQIA+ youth.

Concordia Student Union News

A night of glitz and glamour

Concordia’s inaugural drag night brings sparkles, queens and excitement to Reggie’s Bar.

Colourful lighting, cheers of anticipation, and not a single empty seat created the atmosphere of the first-ever Drag Night at Concordia. 

On Friday, Jan. 26, queens and queers took over Concordia’s on-campus bar, Reggie’s, for Queer Concordia’s first event of 2024. The night was a collaboration between the LGBTQ+ student group and the Concordia Student Union (CSU). 

Tickets could be purchased online for $20-25, depending on the tier. All tickets included a free food or drink item.

The show featured five queens who demonstrated the diversity and excitement of drag performance. The numbers were packed with costume changes, stunts and crowd interaction. Each queen brought something different to the stage, and they all received outstanding praise from the audience. 

Concordia alum, Kiara, both hosted and performed at the show. Kiara was featured on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race in 2020. Now, she has returned to campus as a performer rather than a fine arts student.

“I’m finally coming back to Concordia for the good reasons,” read Kiara’s text message to Christian Taboada, Internal Affairs Coordinator for the CSU. Taboada assisted Queer Concordia’s event coordinator, Joyce Osagie, with organizing the event and booking the queens. 

Kiara hosts the event and chats with the crowd. Photo by Hannah Bell / The Concordian

Alongside Kiara were artists Lulu Shade and Giselle Crown. Lulu—a staple of Montreal’s Village, previously known as the Gay Village—combined humour, beauty, and outrageousness in her performance. Reigning from Sherbrooke, Giselle Crown brought looks and stunts galore to the stage.

The show also featured more alternative performances (if you consider a Crazy Frog lip-sync in a spandex frog suit alternative). Queef Latina is a non-binary Chilean performer who moved to Montreal a few years ago and brought their unique drag style with them. 

Lastly, there was Miss Dupré Latour—trans queen, CEO of DupréLatour Cosmetics and podcast host. She graced the stage with a presence and smile that could illuminate the entire room, no spotlights required. 

After the show, the CSU’s Taboada spoke with the performers, who told him they had “a blast performing because the people were very engaging and respectful.” 

Around 150 tickets were sold, according to Queer Concordia’s marketing coordinator Alicia Kla. She also gave a shout out to Reggie’s staff for being extremely kind and helpful throughout the night.

“We try to diversify our events so that every type of student or person can come,” Kla explained. She highlighted that many attendees at Queer Concordia events are international students who might not have a queer community like this in their home country.  

Queer Concordia is a student group that provides resources and hosts events for Concordia’s student body. Taboada explained that Queer Concordia is funded through student fees. They receive two cents per credit per student per semester. He pointed out that the group’s levy fees are not tied to inflation, so as costs continue to rise, it could become difficult for Queer Concordia to keep up financially.

Taboada said he wanted to collaborate with Queer Concordia and lend a hand because “they are an important community that is very often under-represented.”

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