9-year-old dies tragically by suicide after being bullied for coming out as gay
Over the summer, 9-year-old Jamel Myles told his mom he was gay. "And he looked so scared when he told me," said his mother, Leia Pierce, in an interview with KDVR. "He was like, 'Mom I’m gay.' And I thought he was playing, so I looked back because I was driving, and he was all curled up, so scared. And I said, I still love you."
She said exactly the right thing, and accepted him. Some LGBT people hide their true selves from friends and family for years, out of fear and shame. But that's not how Jamel felt. Leia said he wanted to tell his classmates because "he's proud of himself" - and he wanted to change his style of clothing. "He goes, 'Can I be honest with you?' And I was like sure, and he’s like, 'I know you buy me boy stuff because I’m a boy, but I’d rather dress like a girl.'"
Last Monday, Jamel started fourth grade at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School Last Thursday, Leia found her son dead in their home. The autopsy confirmed it was a suicide. The Denver, Colorado mom said her son killed himself after being bullied for coming out as gay. "Four days is all it took at school. I could just imagine what they said to him," said Leia. "My son told my oldest daughter the kids at school told him to kill himself. I’m just sad he didn’t come to me."
The grieving mother says "we should have accountability for bullying," and is "so upset that he thought that [suicide] was his option." In an emotional post, she grieved her son, and wished something could have been done to prevent this. "I lost a reason to breathe... my heart, my sunshine, my son... he was being bullied and i didnt know. Not till it was to late.. i wish i knew everything so i could've stopped this..."
A spokesperson for Denver Public Schools said they "are very saddened by Jamel’s tragic loss," and issued the following statement:
"It is critical that our students receive all the supports they need to learn and thrive in a safe and welcoming environment. Our formal policies and practices reflect this commitment to ensuring that our LGBTQ+ students can pursue their education with dignity — from policies and training to prevent and stop bullying to formal policies and guidance materials that fully respect gender identity (including use of preferred pronouns and restrooms)."
"Our priority right now is to help all students and adults with the grief they are experiencing, to better understand all the facts surrounding this tragic loss, and to do all we can to prevent another tragedy of this nature in the future."
Hopefully this tragedy can raise awareness about the serious effects of bullying, the importance of mental health, and the vital need to support vulnerable students. As one father commented on Twitter, "His family did everything right--expressed love & acceptance, & still lost him. That there are things that can destroy our kids that are completely outside our control and love terrifies me as a parent."
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, contact Your Life Your Voice on 1-800-448-3000, or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline on 1-800-273-8255.