Nex Benedict and All Trans*figured Children of God, Pray for Us!

Nick Fagnant

Today’s reflection is from guest contributor Nick Fagnant. Nick is a doctoral student studying “Theology and Education” at the Boston College Clough School of Theology and Ministry. After a career of teaching and ministering in Catholic high schools, the focus of Nick’s current work is “queering Ignatian education.” Nick also loves spending time with his nephew, wrestling with his dog, and reading amazing sci-fi stories.

Today’s liturgical readings for the 2nd Sunday of Lent can be found here.

Only a few days ago, we learned tragic information about a young trans* person’s beating and death. From the Human Rights Campaign:

“Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old non-binary high school student, loved nature and watching the television show The Walking Dead. Nex enjoyed drawing, reading and playing Ark and Minecraft. Nex also had a cat, Zeus, whom they loved. Nex’s family trace part of their roots to the Choctaw Nation, and were on a journey to understanding more about Nex’s identity – like many other parents of transgender and non-binary youth. On February 7, 2024, Nex was brutally and viciously beaten inside a bathroom at Owasso High School in Owasso, Oklahoma, where Nex was a student. Nex was taken to the hospital and released, only to be readmitted the following day. On February 8, 2024, Nex succumbed to sustained injuries and tragically died.”

Three cisgender girls beat Nex in the girls’ bathroom, as Oklahoma law requires students use the school bathrooms associated with their sex assigned at birth. While the cause of Nex’s death is still being investigated, the beating by the three girls is not in doubt.

Nex’s death is not a singular case. Especially during Black History Month, I am reminded that Black, trans* women are at extreme risk of violence, even if violence against trans* women of color rarely make national news. In 2023, at least 32 trans* or gender-expansive people in the U.S. were killed, 84% percent of whom were people of color. We need to remember the names of trans*folk like London Price, who was shot and killed in Florida in October, and Sherlyn Marjorie, a beloved drag performer, who was killed by a former intimate partner. We need to remember Tortuguita, an environmental activist, who was shot and killed by a state trooper during a protest, and Zachee Imanitwitaho, a Rwandan immigrant to the U.S., who was found dead in her workplace’s parking lot. We need to remember Unique Banks who, along with her mother, was killed in a mass shooting.

And we can go on and on. This list of names is tragic and overwhelming. It reads like a litany of saints. These trans*folk undertook the long and confusing journey to understand their core identities, their very selves. Even though it cost them their lives, they chose to live authentically. In their stories, I want to lift them up as the beloved, trans*figured children of God I see them to be.

Today’s liturgical readings for the Second Sunday of Lent, a season to confront our failures, help me process these deaths, as well as the broader personal and social sin that purposefully targets these specific members of our LGBTQ+ family.

The Gospel of Mark contains three moments in which the sky shifts and a voice announces Jesus as the Son of God. This first occurs at Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan. Here, the clouds open, a dove descends, and a voice from the heavens states that Jesus is God’s “beloved” Child. Nex, like so many trans* children, needed to hear that sacred voice telling them that they as well are God’s beloved. Especially as members of the Body of Christ, how can we better announce trans* persons as God’s beloved children? As our beloved children?

The second occurrence is in today’s reading, the story of the Transfiguration. Jesus is flanked on the mount by Moses (symbolizing the Law) and Elijah (symbolizing the Prophets). Once again, the sky opens, and the Father declares Jesus as the beloved Son. Meanwhile, Peter, James, and John feel confused and terrified. Even at the Transfiguration, those closest to Jesus do not understand the truth of who he is.

Knowing that your sacred body is trans*figured while the people closest to you don’t understand your core identity as God’s “beloved” must be incredibly lonely. Nex’s parents said they “were on a journey to understand more about Nex’s identity.” Learning the core truths about a loved one requires intentionally setting aside fear and preconceptions to be able to embrace humility to journey alongside them as they discover and reveal themself.

For the rest of the Gospel of Mark, the disciples continue their relational journey of discerning Jesus’s core identity. Like Nex’s parents, they are unable to see the fullness of the trans*figured child of God whom they love. What do we see when confronted with contemporary, sacred, trans*figured, embodied persons? How do we take the initiative in learning more about trans* identities?

Nex Benedict

Mark’s third description of a voice revealing Jesus’ true identity occurs at the Crucifixion, after Jesus has been betrayed and abandoned by the apostles. This time, our expectations are subverted: it is not God the Father, but a Roman soldier who recognizes Jesus as the Son. Mark presents us with this soldier as a model of and hope for our own conversion of heart and culture. Despite often acting as the Roman soldier in complicity with a culture of death, how do we create a culture of life that supports trans* children’s safety and promotes their flourishing?

It is time for us to honor God’s beloved Child by celebrating other gender-expansive and trans*figured members of the Body of Christ. We cannot do this on our own, though. We need the help of those who have gone before us:

Nex Benedict: Pray for us!

London Price: Pray for us!

Sherlyn Marjorie: Pray for us!

Tortuguita: Pray for us!

Zachee Imanitwitaho: Pray for us!

Unique Banks: Pray for us!

All you holy siblings: Pray for us!

All beloved, trans*figured Children of God who have been murdered by our world’s confusion, terror, and fear: Pray for us, that we may have the courage to work for the day when all of God’s trans*figured Children are safe and celebrated!

–Nick Fagnant, February 25, 2024

4 replies
  1. Peter
    Peter says:

    Thank you for your reflections. They are a big help to understanding these tragic deaths and the work that we all have to do to understanding the struggles of transgender people.

    • Nick Fagnant
      Nick Fagnant says:

      Thanks, Peter. I think it’s a good reminder of the importance of being a synodal Church. We need to listen to the “joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties” of queer and trans* kids, especially.


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