A 9-year-old boy died by suicide after he was bullied just days after he came out as gay to his classmates.
Jamel Myles had just started fourth grade at Joe Shoemaker School in Colorado when he took his own life the night of Thursday, August 23rd, just three days after school came back in session following the summer break. He was rushed to the hospital after he was found hanging in his bedroom, according to the county coroner.
Jamel’s mother, Leia Pierce, told the Denver Post that her older daughter told her that Myles’ classmates had told him to kill himself over he came out to them.
Here’s what you need to know about Jamel Myles:
Jamel Myles’ mother says she told her son “I still love you” after he came out to her this past summer. She believes his death was the result of bullying after coming out to his classmates on the first day of school.
Jamel’s mother, Leia Pierce, told Denver’s KDVR that her son had come out to her over the summer. Pierce told the station “he looked so scared when he told me. 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.’”
Pierce said Jamel wanted to wear fake fingernails on the first day of school, and she believes that his classmates bullied him after he came out to them. “The same kids who picked on him last year were even meaner to him once he came out and said he was gay,” she told HLN. “They hurt my baby.”
Jamel wanted to become a YouTube star one day, Pierce told the Denver Post: “He said, ‘Mom, I want to be famous YouTube star so I could buy you a new house.”
Pierce added: “My child died because of bullying. My baby killed himself. He didn’t deserve this. He wanted to make everybody happy even when he wasn’t. I want him back so bad.”
Jamel’s interests included Pokemon and wearing a dress with a tiara and high-heeled shoes, his mother said.
Jamel’s mother says she found him hanging in his bedroom. She said she “lost a reason to breathe” after losing her son to suicide.
Leia Pierce said her son was excited about coming out and wanted to tell his classmates. “He went to school and said he was gonna tell people he’s gay because he’s proud of himself,” she said.
Pierce said when he came out to her, he opened up about wanting to dress more femininely. “And he goes, ‘Can I be honest with you?’” she said. “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.’”
On Thursday, August 23rd, four days into the school year, Pierce found her son hanging in his bedroom. She desperately tried to revive him but it was too late.
Myles was pronounced dead at the Swedish Medical Center, according to a report from the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner. The manner of death, according to the report, was suicide and did not involve a firearm.
“Four days is all it took at school. I could just imagine what they said to him,” Pierce said. “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. I’m so upset that he thought that was his option.”
Pierce wrote on her Facebook page:
“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… how do i live with out all my kids? My son man he is the best and i miss and just want to be with him… he is in heave now and im not ready for this.. i shouldn’t be having to bury my son he is only 9… i love u son i love u so much son…. stop bullying stop the shit i lost my baby cause of it and its not fair not fair not fair… i just want my son back..”
She wrote in another post:
“They say be strong for my daughters but, i cant i just cant.. i couldn’t imagine losing any of my kids and i lost 1 and now my kid is alone and i want to be with him.. i cant let him be alone.. i love u son..”
She said in another post on her page:
“What hurts the most about losing my son. Is knowing other kids feel the same way he did.. I wish i could’ve carried my sons pain for him cause i would… i want bullying to stop.. no child and i mean no child should be bullied by anyone.. matter of fact no one should be a bully at any age.. love more and hate less.. I’ve been very irrational these past couple days.. i dont know how to handle this pain.. i shouldnt of said some of them mean things i did but, my heart is in so much pain… i never wanted to feel this pain and i am.. i want justice for my son and every kid who is bullied.. i want bullying to end i never want to hear someone else go thru this pain…”
The principal at Myles’ school said the school is working to make sure “LGBTQ+ students can pursue their education with dignity.”
Joe Shoemaker Principal Christine Fleming told parents in a letter after Jamel’s suicide: “It is with extreme sadness we share with you that one of our fourth-grade students passed away yesterday. This is an unexpected loss for our community… Our thoughts are with the student’s family at this time. We will continue to process this sad news as a school community, and again, please feel free to reach out as needed for ongoing support…
“It is critical that our students receive all the support 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).”
Will Jones, a spokesman for Denver Public School told the Denver Post that Joe Shoemaker Elementary School had a team of crisis counselors on hand to speak with students, teachers, school staff and anyone else who is hurting.
“It’s always tough when a little one takes his life, “Jones said. “We have our crisis team there. Fourth and fifth grade teachers at Shoemaker are creating a space for students to share how they are feeling and to process their emotions after hearing this news. Teachers are also letting students know about the DPS crisis team members on hand to meet their social-emotional needs.”
Jamel’s suicide has sparked outrage on social media and quickly became a topic of discussion, shedding light on LGBTQ+ kids, bullying, and mental health.
After the news of Jamel Myles’ suicide spread all over the world, outraged people took to social media to express their anger.
“Never let anyone tell us the fight for equality is over,” said Michael Cashman, an actor, writer, and politician from London. “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.’”
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
Twitter user @SeyvonSilva wrote: “This is f***ing heart breaking. My dude was excited to share who he was. He was 9 years old and confident in himself, but others felt the need to bring him down. This is not okay. You’re a star. Rest easy Jamel Myles, remember his name.”
This is fucking heart breaking. My dude was excited to share who he was. He was 9 years old and confident in himself, but others felt the need to bring him down. This is not okay. You’re a star. Rest easy Jamel Myles, remember his name. https://t.co/GSyU1Qb9Xi
— small enchilada (@SeyvonSilva) August 28, 2018
Actor, producer and tv/film/theatre director Emerson Collins tweeted: “Jamel Myles was nine. This is why we fight for The Equality Act, against conversion therapy, against bigoted “deeply held religious beliefs,” for representation, [visibility] and have [PRIDE] – to change the entire culture LGBTQ youth grow up and come out in.”
Jamel Myles was nine. This is why we fight for The Equality Act, against conversion therapy, against bigoted “deeply held religious beliefs,” for representation, visibilty and have PRIDES – to change the entire culture LGBTQ youth grow up and come out in. https://t.co/Uul2jYNQBf
— Emerson Collins (@ActuallyEmerson) August 27, 2018
See other poignant social media responses below:
Bravery should not be something that is ridiculed and evoke statements of hate. #JamelMyles should have been able to share his fearlessness with the world
— Blake Nemeth (@BlakeNemeth) August 27, 2018
This story has crippled me. Children around the world should be introduced from day one to society’s rich tapestry of diversity and to greet LGBT+ children with love and acceptance, especially at school. I’m so sorry for the family of #JamelMyles https://t.co/4I54HqEXY6
— Andrew Keates (@andrewkeates) August 28, 2018
Jamel Myles. I will never forget his name. 9 years old and took his own life over being bullied for being gay. My heart breaks for his family and everyone dealing with bullying & equality. LOVE IS LOVE. https://t.co/5Mbz0z1hW4
— kristen doute ? (@kristendoute) August 28, 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
His name is Jamel Myles and just from this picture you can tell he had such a bright personality. I’m praying for a future where children can stand proud in their identities without being persecuted. May he Rest In Peace ? https://t.co/n8AZhNWzw8
— Chakra Khan (@TheDaintyThug) August 27, 2018
Heartbreaking story: When 9-year-old Jamel Myles started fourth grade in Denver this month, he wanted to tell his classmates that he was gay because he was proud of that. His classmates told him he should kill himself. And he did. #nobullying #ChooseLove https://t.co/hTY7LPJ2sn
— Marilyn Young (@editormarilyn) August 27, 2018
9-year-old Jamel Myles came out to his accepting family as gay. He decided to also come out at school because he was proud of himself. After 4 days of intense bullying, he killed himself.
— Q. Allan Brocka (@allanbrocka) August 28, 2018
I am sooo DONE with these stupid homophobes! This little boy was old enough to end his precious life and yet he comes out and you idiots shame him? #JamelMyles
— Sophia Reese (@Antonio4Brett) August 28, 2018
9…Jamel Myles was only 9 years old & entering the 4th grade. He told his mother that he was “excited” to come out to his friends at school bc, like everyone deserves to be, he was PROUD of who he was, but the other kids at his school didn’t accept him. I’m HEARTBROKEN. https://t.co/6z8RyXWNQ8
— Ugly? (@SeanAndrewz) August 27, 2018
What has happened to our fucking world where a nine year old kills himself for being gay and people are questioning whether or not he could really know he was gay. HE WAS FUCKING NINE. I DONT CARE WHAT ELSE YOU HAVE TO SAY. HE WAS NINE. #JamelMyles
— Samantha Payton (@_Samantha_PD) August 28, 2018
I knew I wasn’t like other boys at 6, I knew I wasn’t straight at 8, I learnt the word gay at 10. Stop changing the narrative around Jamel Myles’ tragic death because you, as an adult, can’t understand. Maybe you didn’t have to question your identity so young but many of us did.
— David Morgan (@thisisdavid) August 28, 2018
Jamel Myles was just 9 years old when he took his own life due to homophobic bullying at school. 9 years old. I can’t imagine the pain a 9 year old must feel to think suicide is the only option. He was still a baby with so much to look forward to & achieve. RIP Jamel. pic.twitter.com/hEA29Hbxk8
— Eleanor Neale (@EleanorxNeale) August 28, 2018
Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Jamel Myles. No one, especially children, should ever be made to feel alone and hopeless simply for who they are. Make the call:@800273TALK: 1-800-273-8255@TrevorProject LGBTQ Hotline: 1-866-488-7386@TransLifeline: 1-877-565-8860
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) August 27, 2018
The tragedy of Myles’ story also inspired an unsurprisingly hateful response from the always awful Westboro Baptist Church:
Mom says Denver boy #JamelMyles killed himself after being bullied at school for coming out as gay. Hateful! Not just the bullies, the parents mostly! They had the duty to raise him in the nurture & admonition of the LORD & to tell him to shut up about sexual preferences! He’s 9! pic.twitter.com/hOMaNRxFvx
— WBCVideo (@WBCVideo) August 28, 2018
Celebrities including singer Kehlani, transgender actress Laverne Cox, and more have taken to social media to mourn the loss of Jamel Myles.
A number of celebrities, including actors, musicians, and other media figures, have taken to social media to mourn the death of Jamel Myles. Singer Kehlani, transgender actress Laverne Cox, Canadian actress Ellen Page, and Pose executive producer Steven Canals expressed their grief, while also calling for more acceptance and tolerance.
“Jamel Myles’ confidence, pride, and eagerness to share his new found freedom with his parents and then classmates at 9 years old is beautiful and hope that is the memory celebrated continuously,” Kehlani shared on Twitter. “Rest in peace little warrior. The lessons here are clear.”
jamel myles’ confidence, pride, and eagerness to share his new found freedom with his parents and then classmates at 9 years old is beautiful and hope that is the memory celebrated continuously. rest in peace little warrior.
the lessons here are clear.
— Kehlani (@Kehlani) August 28, 2018
Laverne Cox tweeted: “This has to stop happening. It must stop. Our bullying culture is killing children. #JamelMyles”
This has to stop happening. It just must stop. Our bullying culture is killing children. #JamelMyles
“A 9-year-old boy died by suicide after being bullied for coming out as gay” https://t.co/BlrS7BqBxK
— Laverne Cox (@Lavernecox) August 28, 2018
Ellen Page said the news about Jamel Myles was heartbreaking. “I have traveled around the country and the world and have been witness to hope and joy but also deep pain and horror,” she said. “This needs to change. I’m sad and angry but trying to keep my heart warm and open to continue to strive to help eradicate this suffering.”
The news re #JamelMyles broke my heart.I have traveled around the country & the world & have been witness 2 hope & joy but also deep pain & horror.This needs to change.I’m sad & angry but trying 2 keep my heart warm & open 2 continue 2 strive 2 help eradicate this suffering. ??
— Ellen Page (@EllenPage) August 28, 2018
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow tweeted that he was “so sick of this,” in regards to kids taking their own lives as a result of bullying.
Meet 9 y.o. #JamelMyles. This summer he came out to his mom as gay. Then, he went back to school, 4th grd. The bullying came quickly. His mom said, “My son told my oldest daughter the kids at school told him to kill himself.” On the 4th day he did just that. I’m so sick of this! pic.twitter.com/ivhYf9qK3j
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) August 28, 2018
“This BREAKS MY HEART,” tweeted singer Hayley Kiyoko. “People need to understand the power of their words. Wow. I’m so sorry for him and his family.”
This BREAKS MY HEART. People need to understand the power of their words. Wow. I’m so sorry for him and his family. https://t.co/YTvQMPgsfB
— Hayley Kiyoko (@HayleyKiyoko) August 28, 2018
Steven Canals, executive producer of the hit FX series Pose, shared a story about the first time he was called gay. “1989. 4th grade. 9 yrs old. First time a fellow male classmate shamed me by saying ‘stop being so gay,’” he tweeted. “I didn’t know who I was then. Jamel did. He was gay. And he was proud, until he wasn’t. My heart aches. #JamelMyles”
1989. 4th grade. 9 yrs old. First time a fellow male classmate shamed me by saying “stop being so gay.” I didn’t know who I was then. Jamel did. He was gay. And he was proud, until he wasn’t. My heart aches. #JamelMyles https://t.co/Lp1i8n5KJb
— Steven Canals (@StevenCanals) August 28, 2018
Ryan Jamaal Swain, an actor who stars on FX’s Pose, tweeted: “THIS HAS TO STOP FOLKS!!!!!!”
— Ryan Jamaal Swain (@RyanJamaal) August 28, 2018
Jamel’s mom is asking people to “show love to everyone” in the wake of her son’s death by suicide.
In the wake of her 9-year-old son’s suicide, Leia Pierce is asking that we all love one another. She wrote to the Daily Beast: “Will you do my son and I a favor? Stand together as equals and show love to everyone, with acceptance of everyone.”
Asked if she had anything else to share, the grieving mother said, “Tell this world my son said they’re beautiful, smart, and they can do it.”
Pierce said her son, Jamel Myles, was “the kindest, most gentlest soul I’ve ever met.”
“We have to stop bullying and teach people it’s OK to love each other,” Pierce said. “We have to stop hating each other for differences, differences that make us equal and unique.”
Amit Paley, CEO of The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ youth, said that if people see someone being bullied or suspect that it is happening, they should step in and make sure the person being bullied feels supported.
“We know that just one person in an LGBTQ+ young person’s life can make a huge difference,” Paley said. “They can reduce their risk of suicide by 30 percent, and so we would encourage everyone to be that person.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are more likely than their straight peers to report being bullied at school and online. The center estimates that LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to report having attempted suicide.
Pierce said she wants justice for her son and tougher consequences for students caught bullying others. “I want justice for every child who’s ever been hurt like this,” she told NBC News. “Every child deserves justice.”
“Everyone wants to talk about suicide right now, because my son passed away, but no one wants to talk about the actions that caused him to do that, which was bullying,” she added.
Pierce said she loved and supported her son after he told her he was gay, and wished that everyone felt the same way. “I didn’t care. He could be whatever he wants to be. I’m still going to love him,” she said. “I wish everyone else could have loved him.”
A GoFundMe Page has been set up to help with funeral costs and a celebration of life to be held at a later date.
A woman named Jacque Miller has set up a GoFundMe on behalf of Jamel’s family to help offset funeral costs. So far, the page has raised close to $4,000 from 102 people in just two days—nearly twice its original goal of $2,000. You can donate here.
“We are wanting to make sure, that Jamel is heard,” the page reads. “He chose to love others, He chose to treat everyone equal. He chose to live life.”
The page continues: “I want you to speak on treating each other with kindness and compassion, We want justice for Jamel, the only way to get that is to touch [people’s] hearts, and tell them if we love more it will be harder to hate. When you speak of Jamel speak with the same compassion he had. He wanted everyone to feel loved cause His mommy taught all her kids we are all the same and Jamel treated people as equals because he was taught love.
“Jamel is going to make this change happen, even though he is no longer with us. The funds will be used to help the family in the coming months, with funeral cost, any money left over will go to a celebration of life for Jamel, that will be determined at a later date. We have future plans, but are unable to discuss at this time. Thank you.
“Jamel’s grandmother [has] been handling all of the detail to this point. If you need to reach her please feel free, she said she would be willing to help out n any way she can.”
Powered by WPeMatico