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A Denver, Colorado, family is in mourning after their bullied 9-year-old gay son died by suicide.
According to Leia Pierce, her son Jamel Myles had come out to her as gay over the summer. “He looked so scared when he told me,” Pierce recalled to KDVR. “He was all curled up, so scared. And I said, I still love you.”
According to Pierce, Myles told her that he wanted to start dressing in a more feminine style and was equally nervous about that. He wanted, though, to come out to his fellow classmates in the new year. “He went to school and said he was gonna tell people he’s gay because he’s proud of himself,” Pierce said.
Myles started fourth grade at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School last Monday, and on Thursday, his mother found him dead in their home. Pierce says she believes that bullying from other students at his elementary school pushed him to take his own life. “My son told my oldest daughter the kids at school told him to kill himself,” Pierce recalled. “Four days is all it took at school.”
Denver Public Schools says they are going to be providing counselors and a crisis team for students who may be affected by the death of Myles, and that they would continue to support his family.
However, Pierce says she wants more action to prevent tragedies like this from happening at all. “We should have accountability for bullying. I think the child should. Because the child knows it’s wrong. The child wouldn’t want someone to do it to them,” Pierce said to KDVR. She also suggested that responsibility may fall on the parents, saying, “I think the parent should be held because obviously the parents are either teaching them to be like that, or they’re treating them like that.”
For many, Pierce’s tragic death is a stark reminder of how far we still have to go for LGBTQ acceptance.
Never let anyone tell us the fight for equality is over.
A nine-year-old boy has killed himself after enduring four days of homophobic bullying at school in Denver, Colorado.
Leia Pierce said her son Jamel Myles, revealed to her over the summer that he was gay, and was “proud”.
— Michael Cashman (@mcashmanCBE) August 27, 2018
Maybe if we spent less time agonising about whether children are "too young" to have conversations about sexuality at school, and more time confronting bullying and supporting vulnerable students, tragedies like this wouldn't happen in 2018.https://t.co/N2t8OYzEP8
— Rachel Cunliffe (@RMCunliffe) August 28, 2018
People ask us, "how much longer will the world need pride festivals and pride parades?" our answer sadly remains: "Until every child can safely and confidently #LiveProud." #JamelMyles https://t.co/bP6IKgA063
— Milwaukee Pride (@mkepride) August 27, 2018
Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They have written for The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, The Lingerie Addict, and Bullet Points.