A strange and desperately tragic Huffington Post headline caught many eyes last month: “Denver Nine-Year-Old Dies By Suicide After Reported Bullying For Being Gay.”
The nine-year-old was Jamel Myles, one of three children being raised by single mom Leia Pierce. Pierce told the media her son privately “came out” to her in the back seat of their car one day, saying “Mom, I’m gay,” while curling up in a ball.
After her affirming reaction, he became more cheerful, excited even. He went shopping with his mom and sisters for fake nails. On the first day of school, he shared his secret with the whole class.
Four days later, Pierce found him dead by hanging in his room. From her oldest daughter, she learned that his classmates had told him to kill himself.
Now Everyone’s a Bully
Other media outlets swiftly weighed in. Billboard collected all in one place Twitter reactions from gay icons like Ellen Page. All of them claimed Myles as a victim of gay oppression and a name that should go down in “LGBT” history. Screenwriter Steven Canals tweeted about the first time he was told to “stop being so gay” in fourth grade: “I didn’t know who I was then. Jamel did. He was gay. And he was proud, until he wasn’t.”
At HuffPo UK, gay activist Jeff Ingold wasted no time in connecting Jamel’s story to Britain’s 30-year-old policies banning local schools from promoting homosexuality. Although the policies were repealed in 2003, Ingold writes ominously that “their shadow looms large,” with some teachers “still unsure of whether they are allowed to teach about LGBT matters at school.”
He stresses the crucial function of “LGBT-inclusive curriculum” in creating a safe atmosphere for students like Jamel. He takes Jamel’s story as a reminder that there is still much work to be done in effecting the cultural change he wants to see.
It’s not just about the kids who told Jamel to kill himself, you see. To LGBT activists writ large, it’s about anyone who might give Jamel any response other than “Of course you’re gay! How could we ever doubt you? What sort of bigot would tell a child who can’t choose his own bedtime that he can’t choose his own sexual identity?” It’s about anyone who might dare to suggest that perhaps prepubescent children don’t need to know about gay sex. Perhaps (gasp) they don’t need state-sponsored sex education at all.
But of course. Everyone’s a bully. And if everyone’s a bully, no one is.
Perniciously False or Trivially True
Ingold’s core assumption that young children are capable of fully mature sexual self-expression is, of course, perniciously false. The truth is that, absent the vocabulary handed to them by our hyper-sexualized culture, young children can’t express themselves sexually, nor should they be able to.
True, a nine-year-old boy might innocently tell his mother, “Mom, I like Sally. She’s pretty.” But the sexual thoughts and feelings that will eventually come with that inclination towards girls like Sally are as yet latent and inchoate. He knows that he really likes Sally, but he knows that he really likes Timmy too. He adores his female math teacher, but also hero-worships his big brother.
What distinguishes these feelings from each other? What separates a crush on a girl from hero-worship of another boy? Young children are not in a position to answer these questions clearly.
As is typical with leftist arguments, when the premises are not perniciously false, they are trivially true. It is, for example, trivially true that children can have interests and personality traits that deviate from peers of their own gender, just as it is trivially true that they can be ruthlessly bullied by those peers as a consequence.
But what does this prove? To the rationally minded, it proves nothing. To the activist, it proves everything. Are you a boy who is more quiet and gentle than the other boys in your class? Do you prefer music or art while they prefer sports? Do you have a flair for dance or musical theater? If you answered “Yes,” you’re probably gay.
But that’s okay! The teachers in your school and celebrities on your TV screen are here to help you discover that you were Born This Way. Thus our culture’s self-anointed mouthpieces prove themselves to have all the nuance, imagination, and insight into human nature of a playground bully. Oh, the irony.
‘No Child Left Behind’
The same plasticity and desire to please that makes children vulnerable to the judgment of their peers also makes them vulnerable to the suggestions of their adult authority figures. In the tweet quoted above, Canals recalls the moment in 1989 when a kid could tease him for “being gay” while his fourth-grade self “didn’t yet know who he was.”
Yet if we were to transport the young Canals from the ’80s to the present, surely he would not lack any vocabulary for his sexual self-expression. The people entrusted with his education and formation would see that he had the full rainbow, as it were. In the sexual revolution, their motto is “No child left behind.”
Ingold laments that, for activists like him, culture is not yet fully made over in their image. On the contrary: they are running away with the culture so fast that even Hollywood struggles to keep up. Consider, for instance, the tepid critical reception for recent indie film “A Kid Like Jake,” about two Brooklyn parents trying to raise their “gender non-conforming” 4-year-old. According to the culture-makers, it’s not propagandistic enough. From the files of “Things That Could Only Be Written In 2018,” an actual quote from an actual review:
It’s more than a little disconcerting to have this child’s fate discussed directly or indirectly without any feedback from the boy himself. Instead, Alex, Greg, and an assortment of other characters speculate about his feelings, his identity, and what he might want, but no one, apparently, thinks to just ask the kid.
“The kid” is four. Oh, we said that already.
As far as Jake’s real-life counterparts are concerned, this reviewer needn’t worry that they will lack adults to exploit them. Even as far back as 2006, six-year-old Jazz Jennings was promptly put on primetime as soon as he announced he was a girl. A book deal followed seven years later.
Jazz’s YouTube show was just one of numerous media influences cited in Brown University’s stunning recent study on the social roots of gender dysphoria in young people. The study provides example after example of children who only announced a desire to transition after immersing themselves in sex-change videos, or mingling with peers who were also experimenting sexually.
News reports follow the same pattern, like the one about an eight-year-old girl who announced, “You know I actually have a disease to make me feel like a boy. I’m dead serious! I looked it up on YouTube!”
This is the culture in which Myles was swimming. Is it any surprise that he told his mother he wanted to grow up and “become a YouTube star”? As gay libertarian pundit Chad Felix Greene observed on Twitter apropos of Jamel’s story, 9-year-old kids do not just up and announce they are gay and “proud” out of thin air.
But yes, Milwaukee Pride, please tell us more about how what we really need are more pride festivals and parades. Tell us how you’re doing it for the children, and will keep doing it for the children, so they too can live “out and proud.” Because clearly, there is nothing manipulative about coaching a group of first and second-graders through a pride day promo ad full of catch-phrases they can barely understand, cum R-rated tangent about “how Jodie Foster made me question my sexuality when I was your age.”
Clearly, there is also nothing abusive or predatory about grooming 9-year-old Nemis Golden into a drag queen and gay fashion icon. Nemis calls his alter ego “Lactatia.” His mother says he became passionate about drag after she introduced him to RuPaul’s drag race at age seven. At the end of this video, he gets a surprise visit from Season 6 contender “Vivacious.” “It’s because of people like you that I’m here,” he tells young Nemis. “You are my replacement.”
Where Does Shame Really Belong?
Some might accuse me of letting Jamel’s bullies off the hook. I do nothing of the sort. I merely observe that debauched culture and cruel children are a match made in hell. The former provides dark materials for the latter. We are being told that the question at hand is “How can children like Jamel Myles come out safely?” when the real question is, “How did children like Jamel Myles learn what it means to ‘come out’ in the first place?”
Jamel’s blood is on his bullies’ hands, but they’re not the only ones who contributed to this tragedy. Some blame should be cast on every single media outlet, every single “gay icon” with a platform who is standing on Jamel’s dead body and turning him into a martyr for their sexual cause celebre. These are the people encouraging prepubescent kids to adopt an adult identity and sexuality they can know essentially nothing about, then glamorizing their deaths. They are the ones communicating that lack of instant acceptance is a horrifying, even un-surmountable event. These are clearly dangerous messages to send impressionable kids.
Yet Gay Star News informs us that “Telling kids they are too young to come out makes you the problem.” Greene’s response was swift and unsparing: “Politicizing a rare and extreme tragedy involving child suicide for a political narrative makes *you* the problem.” Still HuffPo and Co. will go on shifting the blame: to those who oppose gay marriage, or oppose gay sex ed in schools, or oppose sex ed in schools. “How dare you?” they say. “Shame on you,” they say.
No, HuffPo. No, GSN. Shame on you.