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Guest Opinion

Haunted by non-binary teens’ stories of bullying


The other night I attended the Rainbow Room’s vigil for Nex Benedict at Salem Church of Christ in Doylestown, where I serve as pastor.

Nex, a 16-year-old non-binary sophomore from Oklahoma, died recently after an attack in their high school bathroom; a youth, like so many in our own community, who bore the cost of trying to live with integrity in a world that persists in legislating away their existence.

According to Nex’s mom, the bullying started when the school district imposed a rule that kids must use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth, a policy like many enacted across our state in recent years.

I am haunted by the stories of the trans and non-binary teens who filled our sanctuary. Many spoke about the constant harassment and ridicule they experience, and their perpetual fear that they will not make it to adulthood — either due to violence or because the price of facing daily hostility will no longer feel worth it.

I recently preached about when Jesus told his followers that he would soon die, and, unable to face that agonizing truth, they began arguing over which of them was the greatest. In other words, afraid to face a real problem, they found something inconsequential to fight over that made them feel more powerful.

Two millennia later, politicians are doing the same: Instead of facing real problems, they are demonizing trans youth. As common enemies go, it’s hard to feel intimidated by a group that represents less than 1% of the population — but to hear these politicians rave, kids like Nex are greater threats than gun violence or rising sea levels.

We don’t need another scapegoat. What we truly need to meet the challenges of our time is precisely what gender diverse humans bring to the table: the ability to see possibilities outside of the mainstream. Their gender identity is neither a threat nor a deficit; it’s a superpower.

Scripture proclaims that God created humans in God’s own image. If, like me, you believe all humans were created in the image of God, then it stands to reason that God’s existence does not conform to binary definitions of gender. God is beyond – dare I say trans – gender.

So in the name of our gender-expansive God, I implore all of us to protect these kids, who bear a particularly strong image of God here on Earth. Write to your legislators, attend your school board meetings, be diligent in using the proper names and pronouns of the people in your life.

We need our kids to thrive. They need us to build a world where that can happen. Let’s get to work.

The Rev. Alexis Fuller-Wright is pastor of Salem United Church of Christ in Doylestown.

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