Life after vi­ral video:

Daniel Pierce now help­ing gay home­less youth.

GA Voice - - Front Page - By DYANA BAGBY dbagby@the­gavoice.com

More than 7 mil­lion peo­ple have watched the video of Daniel Pierce be­ing at­tacked by fam­ily mem­bers after they con­fronted him about be­ing gay. But Pierce, 19, re­fuses to watch it again.

“I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to hear it. I lived it. I’ve seen it hun­dreds of times since it hap­pened. That is still too emo­tional for me to lis­ten,” he says while sit­ting in the con­fer­ence room of the Lost-N-Found Youth thrift store in At­lanta.

Pierce, who will be at­tend­ing Ken­ne­saw State Univer­sity in Jan­uary, was re­cently named to the board of Lost-N-Found Youth, the or­ga­ni­za­tion that im­me­di­ately jumped into ac­tion to help him after the video of him be­ing hit and yelled at by his fa­ther, step­mother and grand­mother.

The 5-minute video of the clash is ac­tu­ally an “in­ter­ven­tion” that was planned by his fam­ily, Pierce ex­plains. In the video, his step­mother, fa­ther and grand­mother say it is against God’s will for him to be gay and a phys­i­cal al­ter­ca­tion en­sues. Pierce se­cretly recorded the fight on his cell­phone.

“I ac­tu­ally came out last Oc­to­ber, on Na­tional Com­ing Out Day, but I didn’t know it was Na­tional Com­ing Out Day. I told my step­mother and she was very sup­port­ive. She talked about her kids, and said she would love her kids no mat­ter what. My dad was un­re­spon­sive,” he says.

The is­sue was not dis­cussed for a year and Pierce says he got tired of not talk­ing about it, so he brought it up with his fa­ther again. “He re­acted badly. This was days be­fore the in­ci­dent.”

On Aug. 26, a Tues­day evening, Pierce said he got a call from his grand­mother say­ing she was com­ing over to the house where Pierce lived with his older brother. His fa­ther and step­mother were also com­ing and Pierce says he im­me­di­ately knew some­thing was up.

“I texted my aunt and said to stay close to the phone, they’re about to do an in­ter­ven­tion,” Pierce re­calls. “I went through ev­ery­thing in my head and stayed calm un­til I got hit. And I knew they were not go­ing to change their mind.”

Pierce left the house after the vi­o­lent fight with his fam­ily, car­ry­ing a tooth­brush and two gi­ant black garbage bags filled with clothes. He went to stay with his aunt where he cur­rently lives.

Noth­ing hap­pened to prompt the so- called in­ter­ven­tion, Pierce says. In­stead, he says he was “am­bushed out of nowhere.”

He still hasn’t spo­ken to his fam­ily since that fate­ful night in Au­gust. He is close with his brother and they have spo­ken, but his brother tries to re­main neu­tral, “like Switzer­land.”

“He’s try­ing to keep the peace and I can un­der­stand that,” Pierce says.

His par­ents di­vorced when he was young and Pierce had to deal with want­ing to live with his mother and then his fa­ther and then his mother again when he was 11. He was never very close to his fa­ther’s side of the fam­ily, although he tried. His ef­forts were met with a brick wall.

“I al­ways re­ferred to my­self as the black sheep of the fam­ily and now I joke I’m the rainbow sheep,” Pierce says with a smile. “Now I know why they didn’t like me.”

In the pre­vi­ous year, though, Pierce says he and his fa­ther had got­ten close. Not hav­ing that re­la­tion­ship is hurt­ful. Watch­ing a movie re­cently in which a child shares a spe­cial event with his fa­ther made Pierce sad.

“I have my mo­ments,” he says. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get that again. It’s a shame re­ally. There is no rea­son we shouldn’t be able to have a re­la­tion­ship. It’s silly and fool­ish to dis­own your child for­ever over some­thing that should not be an is­sue.”

MONEY MAT­TERS

Pierce’s boyfriend, David, im­me­di­ately set up a Go­FundMe ac­count the day after the fight was recorded and up­loaded to YouTube by friends. After re­ceiv­ing $90,000 in do­na­tions, Pierce posted to his Go­FundMe ac­count a re­quest that fu­ture do­na­tions be made to Lost-N-Found and the non­profit has re­ceived more than $20,000 in do­na­tions.

The story made in­ter­na­tional head­lines and he was bom­barded in­ces­santly by calls and re­quests for in­ter­views of his al­ter­ca­tion with his fam­ily and the mas­sive do­na­tions. At the 30-day mark after the fight, Pierce says he had a “full on men­tal break­down” and quit all in­ter­views and de­nied all fu­ture in­ter­views and took a break from pub­lic ap­pear­ances.

Now more than two months later, Pierce says life is be­gin­ning to level out. He is thrilled to be a re­source on the Lost-N-Found board, es­pe­cially to youth who need some­one they can iden­tify with.

The $90,000 is be­ing used for liv­ing ex­penses, med­i­cal care, car in­surance, and to pay for school, among other things. Pierce plans to ma­jor in business ad­min­is­tra­tion at KSU and wants to go into the pet food in­dus­try when he grad­u­ates.

He cur­rently works at a pet store and spends most of his free time res­cu­ing cats and dogs. His own dog, Rico, is a stan­dard Chi­huahua he res­cued from the streets three years ago.

For some­one who spends so much time res­cu­ing pets, Pierce ad­mits it was dif­fi­cult for him to al­low oth­ers res­cue him.

“I’m so in­de­pen­dent and I had to tell my­self to step back and let peo­ple help you. Oth­er­wise I would have crashed and burned,” he says.

‘SO MUCH SUPPORT’

Rec­on­cil­ing with his fam­ily is not out of the ques­tion, Pierce says. “They’re my fam­ily. I love them.” The over­whelm­ing support he’s re­ceived from peo­ple around the world who send care pack­ages to Lost-N-Found’s thrift store and send let­ters to his work, helps him get through the dif­fi­cult times.

“It just breaks your heart that some­one you’ve never met and will prob­a­bly never meet you can have this much love and support for you,” he says. “But you can’t get it from your par­ents.”

In the mean­time, Pierce says he will con­tinue to cham­pion Lost-N-Found and bring aware­ness to LGBT youth who are kicked out of their homes for sim­ply be­ing who they are.

Forty per­cent of home­less youth iden­tify as LGBT and most of them are dis­owned by fam­i­lies for be­ing gay, les­bian, bi­sex­ual or trans­gen­der, na­tional stud­ies state.

Lost-N-Found is work­ing on a $1 mil­lion cap­i­tal cam­paign to ren­o­vate a house in Mid­town so it can open a much larger dropin cen­ter and pro­vide many more beds for home­less youth; the or­ga­ni­za­tion cur­rently has a house with six beds lo­cated in West End and there is al­ways a wait­ing list.

Lost-N-Found es­ti­mates there are 750 home­less youth in At­lanta on any sin­gle night. There is help, though, Pierce says, through his mis­for­tune now avail­able for ev­ery­one to see on the in­ter­net.

“If my fam­ily had seen that hap­pen to some­one else, maybe they would have acted in a dif­fer­ent way and known this is not the way to ap­proach this,” he says.

(Photo by Dyana Bagby)

Daniel Pierce, 19, made in­ter­na­tional head­lines after a video of him be­ing yelled at and hit by his fam­ily be­cause he is gay is now work­ing to raise aware­ness for LGBT youth.

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