To look at him today belies that the smiling face of Daniel Pierce is the same face of a Georgia teen who dodged punches from his family in a viral coming out video less than a year ago.
It’s been a long, bumpy road for Pierce (photo, right with Lost N Found Youth's Rick Westbrook)) since millions of people watched the video of his family’s harsh reaction to his coming out. But in some ways it’s been a rewarding one too, as hundreds more people came to his aid with money and support after his family kicked him out of the house for being gay.
Life is on the upswing as the notoriety dies down, Pierce tells the AJC in a deep-dive the paper did to update his story. By now, much of gay Atlanta knows what happened when his dad and step mom confronted him about his sexual orientation and Pierce hit record on the subsequent conversation. Many also know that Lost N Found Youth was among those who stepped up to support him, and that Pierce even won an award as GLAAD Atlanta honored its annual champions.
Just nine months after that horrible video, Pierce has used part of the nearly $94,000 he raised from supporters to buy a gently used Volkswagen and the hearing aids he needs. The 20-year-old is also enrolled at KSU and has a close-knit family of choice, according to the AJC.
Today, Daniel calls Regina Ryan his “mother by choice.” She owns The Good Dog Co., a pet nutrition store in Kennesaw, and it’s where Daniel works, along with Teri Bearden Cooper, a longtime family friend, whom he calls his “aunt.” They are a tight trio.
Last year, they joined Daniel and his partner, David Estrada, at the Atlanta Pride parade, sharing a float sponsored by Lost-n-Found, a nonprofit that helps get homeless gay, bisexual and transgender youth off the street. Ryan and Cooper, along with Estrada, would be the first people Daniel turned to on the night of the family altercation.
“People who know Daniel would say he is wise,” Ryan says, “but he’s still young in many ways. He’s still a kid. This whole experience has put him in a place where he has had to learn and deal with issues.”
And about that family of origin? They’re still out of the picture, but Pierce isn’t putting his life on hold to see if they ever come around.
Since that altercation in August 2014, Daniel said he’s had no contact with his father, stepmother or grandparents.
“Am I angry? No,” he said. “Am I disappointed? Yes. Even though all that happened, all that crap happened, I am not mad at them. I wasn’t surprised at the verbal abuse, but when it got physical, it surprised me.”
On a brighter note, the incident reconnected Daniel with his mother, who learned about the incident via YouTube. Mother and son are now in touch. She’s met Estrada and entertained the couple in her home in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Pierce looks back on the video that opened the path to his new, out life with a head full of lessons learned.
Daniel admitted his initial impulse in posting the video was vengeance, but now he recognizes the good it’s done, bringing attention to a serious issue that affects many gay teens everywhere.
“It was posted to get back at my stepmother,” he said. “But there were other forces at work. I saw what good came out of the situation.”