Warning: Triggers for heartbreak, tears and depression. Over the summer 9-year-old Jamel Myles came out to his mom as gay and said he wanted to wear more feminine clothes. She told him she still loved him. Jamel was proud of himself and eager to share the news with his classmates. Four days after school started, Jamel Myles took his own life. His older sister told their mom that after coming out at school the mean kids who had bullied him incessantly the year before told him to kill himself.
Can you imagine the hate-filled words that child had to endure?! I can. And where did those bullying 9-year-old classmates hear such despicable language? The answer: in homes where kids like Jamel would be put in foster care, in churches where he would be decried an abomination, and from the mouths of elected officials who don’t believe transgender students deserve equal rights or federal protections.
And can you imagine the shock and grief Jamel’s mother, Leia Pierce, is feeling? Of course, you can. In interviews this week she pleads for an end to bullying. In the solidarity of shared heartbreak, we must also share her outrage.
Here’s what we adults can do.
- We must teach children to be kind.
- It’s our job to teach children to be accepting.
- Children must learn that it’s okay to be different.
- We must teach children that it’s okay to be gay.
- All kids should know that love is love.
- We must teach children that hate is never okay.
- Everyone can work to ensure that schools, churches, neighborhoods and homes – and our own workplaces – are safe and welcoming spaces for all people.
Please say Jamel Myles’ name and take action in his memory.
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