Daniel Pierce, gay Georgia teen kicked out of home, reflects on his situation one year later

In August of last year, Daniel Pierce was kicked out of his home and disowned by his family for being gay. He recorded the confrontation on camera and the footage was later uploaded to YouTube. Daniel received help from Lost N Found Youth, an Atlanta organization that helps homeless LGBT youth get off the streets, along with other services. We talked to Daniel nearly a year later to see how his life has changed.

GLAAD: It's been almost one year since you had to leave your home. In what ways has your life changed? How have you adapted and overcome the following adversity?

Daniel: Almost every aspect of my life has changed in some way. A year ago I was planning for college and going to school full time. I was still very much a teenager. On Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 that all changed in a blink of an eye. I was homeless, with no car, no money, a busted lip and bruises... nothing but my dog and what few bags of personal things I could get. On Wednesday, August 27th, as I sat in my aunt's living room looking at a pile of my belongings thrown into the floor, I felt as if life was over... I was beaten down and life was no longer as I knew it to be... it just didn't seem real... honestly, a year later it still doesn't.

Thursday, August 28th, I woke up to hundreds of phone calls, emails, text messages, and Go Fund Me alerts. I had no clue what Go Fund Me was – I had never even heard of Go Fund Me. All I could see on the alerts was, "Name" gave "amount of money." It was overwhelming. On Thursday, I met with Lost N Found Youth. A good friend of mine, Michelle P., is a volunteer for Lost N Found Youth and she got me in contact with Rick Westbrook and Charlotte Cagle who run Lost N Found Youth.

Over the next few months I attended LGBTQ events to bring awareness to the issue of families disowning children because of sexual orientation. I attend school at Kennesaw State University and continued to work part time at The Good Dog Co. Atlanta, where I have worked since I was sixteen. I tried my best to regain a sense of normalcy to my life. Through hard work with a therapist, I have come to an understanding with reality and what happened almost a year ago. It's not something that you get over – losing a huge part of my blood family is hard to comprehend. I had so much thrown at me so quickly; I never thought at nineteen-years-old, I would have to deal with attorneys, buying a car, financial advisers, public relations representatives, media and much more. It was something I had never even thought of. I never thought I would Google my name and see hundreds of articles about myself. But with all that has happened, so much good has come from it. I have met so many amazing people and I am so proud that my story has helped so many people and families. The love and support that I received from the community got me through this, and its continuing to get me through. Almost a year later, life is great. I have a wonderful partner David who stood by me through it all and I have such a beautiful group of friends and chosen family who love me for being myself. I couldn't ask for anything better than that.         

GLAAD: You received an overwhelming amount of support after the viral video of your family confronting and attacking you was uploaded to the Internet. Did you ever expect that type of public reaction? What does the support mean to you today?

Daniel: I honestly didn't expect it to get past the eighty to one hundred friends on my Facebook, but it was only a matter of hours before it started going viral. The love and support I received from the community was amazing and overwhelming in a good way. It kept me going.   

GLAAD: After losing your home, you received help and a place to stay from Lost N Found Youth. Now you are on LNFY's Board of Directors. What is your hope for the future of LNFY and the future of LGBT homeless youth?

Daniel: My aunt took me in and Lost N Found provided emotional support and resources to help me get back on my feet. My hope is that we continue the momentum here in Atlanta to get kids off the street. The bottom line is to keep people talking and keep the eye on homeless youth to educate families on homeless youth. My goal with my story was to bring some light to the homeless youth issue here in Atlanta. We have to lower the statistics here in Atlanta: over seven hundred LGBTQ kids are on the streets every night. These kids are being beaten and thrown out of their homes for being LGBTQ. So, my hope is to change that part so these kids are not thrown out in the first place. My hope for Lost N Found Youth is to grow the organization to every kid that comes to us. Lost N Found takes these kids in and gives them a family they can count on.        

GLAAD: Now that you've overcome such a huge setback in your life, where do you go from here? What do you see yourself doing in the upcoming years?

Daniel: Life is good now! I have a wonderful partner who loves me and supports me in everything I do. I have a new full time job as a legal assistant. In the next few years, I hope to help Lost N Found grow to help decrease the number of homeless youth here in Atlanta. I will continue to go to Kennesaw State University as a business major. I hope to eventually relocate to the West Coast with my partner to start a family and continue to work in LGBTQ rights and with homeless youth.  

GLAAD: Have you had any contact with your family since leaving home? Do you want to have contact with them?

Daniel: The only contact I have had with my family was with my grandmother. I was at the post office when she walked up to me. My only question to her was, "Why?" She was the one you first hear in the video saying that they love me, that she has known that I was gay since I was "tiny little boy," but I made the decision to be gay. She was the one who told me I must leave the house. Her response to my question was that I attacked them and that they were telling me that I was welcome to stay. It was like a kick in the stomach to hear her try to rationalize what she and her family had done to me. It was in that moment that it became reality. It no longer seemed like a dream. I just got in my car and drove away. After that incident with her, I feel that it's in my best interest for my well-being to not have a relationship with that part of my family.  

GLAAD: For other LGBT youth that come from unaccepting families, what advice could you give them?

Daniel: My advice is to attend school, if possible, and find a group of friends that support you and love you. Chosen family is what will get you through this difficult time. Never give up hope. You will come out so much brighter on the other side. The road may be rocky, but keep going. Life is what you make it to be. If you have a local shelter or organization like Lost N Found, please reach out for their help. And remember that your gut feeling is normally right for any decision you make. If there are services in your area for homeless youth or youth who come from families who are not accepting of LGBTQ youth, seek counseling from them to help you mentally process what you are going through. Mental health is very important. Remember that you are loved!