Experts: Children coming out earlier, and parents should be ready to have discussion

DENVER -- The suicide of 9-year-old Jamel Myles taking has hit home for many in the Denver community, including Blanca Leos.

“My son was unfortunately bullied when he was in middle school,” Leos said.

She’s the president of the Denver chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

“He had such a time with the coming out process, he did have an attempted suicide," she said.

Kids are starting to come and identify as gay, lesbian or transgender at a younger age.

“I know for my son, I asked him ‘When did you know?’ And he told me it was very early on,” Leos said.

“It’s definitely getting younger,” said psychologist Sheryl Ziegler with The Child and Family Therapy Center at Lowry. “I mean, I remember years ago, seven or eight years ago, when it seemed young when a middle-schooler came out to me. Now that’s the norm.”

For Myles’ mom Leia Pierce, her son came out to her when he was 9 years old. He also told her he liked dressing differently.

“And he goes, can I be honest with you?” Pierce said. “And I was like sure, and he’s like, ‘I know you buy me boy stuff because I’m a boy, but I’d rather dress like a girl.’ I was like that’s fine, I was like we can get you whatever you want. Two days after that he tells me he’s gay.”

Ziegler said parents can help prepare kids for what they might face at school, especially heading into a large middle school.

“Let’s talk about all of the differences that are gonna exist between all the kids there,” Ziegler said.

Leos said it doesn’t hurt for parents that don’t have kids who identify as LGBTQ to talk with parents who have children that do identify, to have a better understanding.

She said not every child comes out the same way, and sometimes you need to pick up on the cues.

“Sometimes you know they’re telling you without really saying it,” Leos said.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness said LGBTQ individuals are three times more likely than others to experience health conditions such as depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.

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