By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief
A 9-year-old boy in Colorado died from suicide Aug. 23 after reportedly coming out as gay and being bullied by his fourth-grade peers for it.
Jamel Myles’ heartbreaking death once again makes it damningly clear how far society still has to go when it comes to the acceptance and treatment of LGBTQ people.
Though he isn’t the first LGBTQ youth to take their life, his suicide sheds light on the community’s substantially higher risk of suicide due to the negative rhetoric, like systemic discrimination and hate crimes, regarding LGBTQ individuals that persists in society today.
The Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Youth Report found seven in 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning youth report being bullied at school, and a JAMA research letter, published in December 2017, found LGBQ youth are at least four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.
But a person’s sexual identity isn’t what makes them more prone to suicide. It’s the hate and rejection they experience from friends, family and society that lead to them feeling worth less — like their life isn’t worth living.
For some, it takes months or years to reach this breaking point, but for Myles, it was only a matter of days.
Four to be exact.
Four days for Myles to go from proud of his sexuality to his mother finding her son’s lifeless body.
He should be sitting in his fourth-grade class learning, running around on the playground or excitedly telling his mother about his day over dinner.
But he isn’t. He can’t.
And rather than debate how a 9-year-old could already know he’s gay, we should discuss how his peers already knew to hate and bully him for it.
It’s 2018, not the 1950s. We know better. Now it’s time to be better, for no one is born with hate in their heart.
May we all be mindful of Nelson Mandela’s words: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line.