Leia Pierce says her 9-year-old son, Jamel Myles, had just started fourth grade at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School when he took his own life.
Over the summer, Pierce said her son had come out to her as gay.
“And 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.
“My son knew who he was. He found himself and I was proud of him,” said Pierce.
Pierce said she has received tremendous support from people around the world.
“It makes me feel better. It makes me feel like my son’s word of love is getting out,” said Pierce.
However, Pierce’s inboxes and mentions have also been filled with hateful messages.
“The negativity that I’ve seen on social media — the derogatory comments toward my son or myself — it just proves my point that there is so much hate in this world, that there is so much bullying,” she said.
Pierce said that she refuses to reciprocate the hate, instead she promotes a positive message.
She added that some people have even come out to her via social media, saying her son’s story gave them courage.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or depression, the following resources are available:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255): Speak with someone who will provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To learn how to help someone in crisis, call the same number.
The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386): A 24/7 resource for LGBT youth struggling with a crisis or suicidal thoughts. The line is staffed by trained counselors.