(Autumn Hope Art, 2018)
TW: suicide, homophobia
A nine-year-old boy took his own life after being bullied just days after coming out to his schoolmates.
Jamel Myles was nine; nine years old and he felt the only option left for him was to end his life. When I was nine the biggest worries I had centred around which book I was going to read next and when I would be seeing my friends. It’s hard to comprehend that someone so young and innocent, someone who had their entire life ahead of them, could have been pushed to the point where they no longer wanted to go on.
Leia Pierce, Jamel’s mother, told KDVR-TV he was so scared to tell her he was gay, but she told him ‘I still love you.’ Pierce said Jamel was so excited to tell his classmates because he was proud of himself and who he was. He opened up to her and was honest about wanting to dress more femininely, and she accepted him.
Regardless of the love Jamel received from his family, the compassion did not reach as far as the classroom. It was only the fourth day of school when his mother found him dead after being bullied and told to kill himself.
Four days of bullying led Jamel to end his life at nine years old.
It is too hard to even attempt to imagine the comments he would have endured. It is such a heartbreaking and confronting event that will change his family’s life forever, as well as the lives of many others. News of Jamel’s passing has spread like wildfire over social media and news sites, and people are calling for greater action to be taken towards bullying.
We need to surround children with ideals of acceptance and encouragement, so they understand that everyone is different, and that that is a good thing. Greater action needs to be taken to combat bullying in schools and ensure that school grounds are safe spaces for all children.
As a child, I was very shy and opening up to people was something that I found difficult, but primary school was a place where I was able to learn how to do that. For me, it was an environment where I could figure out who I was and dream about what I wanted to be in the future. It was somewhere to learn new skills and grow, both in height and as a person, because that’s how school should be. It should not be somewhere where children live in fear of openly being themselves and it should never be a place for harassment and bullying—if only that was everyone’s reality.
The hatred in our society is learned; the children who bullied Jamel learned to think that way from the people around them. Hatred is institutionalised and often ingrained into children when they are young. Children are like sponges, soaking up the information they are given and the attitudes that surround them. We learn to hate and reject people because of their sexual preferences, the colour of their skin, their faith and more—it is something that we are taught, not something we are born doing. But it’s also something that can be changed.
It’s not an issue of making everyone love each other, because that is unrealistic, but each person deserves and is worthy of respect for who they are. As well as doing more to combat bullying in schools, the tides need to be changed about certain attitudes that may surround children at home.
Many of the tweets responding to headlines about Jamel’s death tried to debate the idea that he was ‘too young to know he was gay,’ when really that is not an issue and definitely should not be the focus. The main issue at hand is that at only nine years old Jamel’s classmates thought that him being gay meant he deserved to be bullied and urged to suicide. Something so normal and natural was turned against him by people so young, and if that is not a wakeup call, I’m not sure what is.
To hear about someone so young being pushed to suicide by people so young over the span of four days is almost too confronting to handle—in this day and age, we should expect more.
We need to do better—do better so people can openly be themselves and be accepted for that. We need to be better.