From family rejection to an LGBT Atlanta family of acceptance, Daniel Pierce has had quite a year. In 12 months, he shot from obscurity to notoriety, from outcast to Atlanta Pride grand marshal.
You already knew that things were looking way up for the teen who recorded video of coming out to his family only to be punched, kicked and told to leave. He's had to grow up a lot since then.
“A year ago, I was planning for college and going to school full time,” Pierce tells GLAAD in a one-year update. “On Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 that all changed in a blink of an eye.”
Initially lost, a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign, more than a few committed Samaritans, and Lost N Found, Atlanta’s local group for homeless LGBT teens, made the difference. His own ability to pick himself up with the assistance he got won him a GLAAD award, a deep dive into his life in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and even a place among the 2015 Atlanta Pride Grand Marshals.
“The love and support I received from the community was amazing and overwhelming in a good way,” Pierce tells GLAAD. “It kept me going.”
These days, Pierce is a Lost N Found board member. He's focused on helping hundreds of local LGBT youth like him who find themselves in dire situations on the streets, he tells GLAAD.
“The bottom line is to keep people talking and keep the eye on homeless youth to educate families on homeless youth,” he says. “My goal with my story was to bring some light to the homeless youth issue. 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.”
About that family of origin who rejected him? There’s only been one encounter, when Pierce ran into his grandmother at the post office. It was disheartening but teachable, Pierce recals.
“My only question to her was, ‘Why?’ … 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 wellbeing to not have a relationship with that part of my family.”
Pierce offers extensive advice for homeless LGBT youth, but it all stems from one key tip: “Remember that you are loved!”