By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com August 28 2014 11:33 AM ET
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A 19-year-old gay man is safe and staying with a family friend in Atlanta, Georgia, after suffering physical and verbal abuse at the hands of his stepmother, father, and grandparents when he told them he was gay.
Daniel Pierce filmed his family's reaction to his confirmation that he was gay in chilling first-hand look at the violence and rejection that can result when parents don't accept their child's sexual orientation.
The video, which Pierce captured on his cell phone and a coworker uploaded, has been viewed nearly 800,000 times on YouTube at press time, since it was published Wednesday evening. Pierce's boyfriend set up a GoFundMe account to help his partner cover living expenses, as the family made good on its threat to cut the teenager off financially, even taking his car. At press time, the GoFundMe page has raised more than $20,000.
Pierce's aunt, Teri Cooper, confirmed the video's authenticity to The Advocate, explaining that she picked Daniel up on Wednesday after responding to a frantic text alerting her that his family was trying to stage an "intervention" to "pray away the gay." Cooper says when she arrived at the home, the family wouldn't let her inside, but Pierce emerged with a split lip. Cooper says that wound came from his stepmother, who punched him in the mouth during the altercation that can be overheard in the video.
Cooper also confirmed that Pierce is now staying with her and supportive friends in Atlanta, where he is safe, though still shaken by the week's events and the surrounding publicity from his assault quickly going viral. Cooper explained that Pierce had just started classes last week at Georgia Highlands College, where he plans to major in psychology.
In the opening moments of the video, Pierce's grandmother can be heard telling the young man that she has known since he was a small child that he was gay. Nevertheless, the woman tells her grandson that she believes he has made a choice to be gay, that it is "a path [he has] chosen". When he tries to refute her claims by pointing to "scientific proof" that sexual orientation is innate, she says she believes in "the word of God," not so-called science.
Cooper says that despite their reliance on scripture in rejecting one of their own, Pierce's family is not especially religious, and does not regularly attend church services.
Shortly thereafter, the situation escalates, as Pierce's father tells him he is a disgrace and calls him a "queer," while his stepmother screams at the teenager and begins to hit him.
While stories of parents accepting and affirming their LGBT children are becoming more common, this clip provides a stark reminder that many LGBT youth still face emotional, physical, and spiritual violence in their families of origin. Familial rejection is one of the leading causes of the high number of LGBT youth who are homeless — estimates have found that as many as 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT-identified.
Watch the video below, with a serious trigger warning for verbal, physical, and antigay assault, profane language, and antigay slurs.
If you or someone you know is facing anti-LGBT sentiment or violence in their home, or has already fled an abusive home environment, contact the National Runaway Switchboartd at 1-800-RUNAWAY. New York City's Ali Forney Center, a drop-in and residential shelter for LGBT youth, also has local and national resource guides for LGBT youth online.