Coming out can be easy — for me it was, my father’s response, “I love you very much.” — or it can be hard and harder. For Daniel Pierce, a 20-year-old Georgia man, it was the hardest of all because, simply by sharing with his religious parents his long kept secret, he was kicked out of his home.
We all know this because Daniel secretly filmed the moment he was disowned by his family for being gay, and the subsequent upload to YouTube went viral, seen by almost two million viewers in two days.
In the video a woman, believed to be Daniel’s mother, is heard saying: 'I have known that you were gay since you were a tiny boy … You have made a choice from what you've told your daddy. You can deny all you want to but I believe in the word of God and he does not create anybody that way.'
Daniel tries explaining that he knows her was born gay, but his family, his family, will not listen to him, and his mother says, 'You will need to move out and find whenever you can to live. Because I will not let anyone believe that I condone what you want to do. … You told me on the phone that you made that choice. You know you wasn't born that way. You know good and well you made that choice. … 'You know that your father has done everything he can to raise you. He didn't need to blame himself.'
Daniel’s clip — entitled 'How not to react when your child tells you that he's gay' — prompted hundreds of responses from around the world, nearly all supportive and nearly all wanting to help.
His boyfriend set up a GoFundMe page to help Daniel with living expenses after he was kicked out of his home.
"I didn't realize that this was even set up for me. I don't even know how to thank y'all. I wish I could give each and every one of you a huge hug. I was trying to respond to everyone but I couldn't keep up. Thank you."— Daniel Ashley Pierce
But it wasn’t just the money that poured in, it was also the strangers commenting, offering support, that shocked Daniel; his own family kicked him out and now strangers were standing up with him and for him.
"Be proud of yourself, it takes a lot of courage to do a thing like that. I lived in a hell like that for five years and I can completely understand you, go on with your own life and don't let them break your dreams."—Robert Randazzo
“I would never treat my child the way you have been treated. My mother is Christian and when my brother 'came out' she accepted it with love and told him that his actions and sexuality are between him and God. It is both sad and inspiring that strangers have shown more love and support than your own family."—Rebecca Hall
But what happened next is possibly the greatest thing of all.
The GoFundMe page raised nearly $100,000 for Daniel to move out, be on his own, and start a new life, but now Daniel has asked that people stop giving him money. He wants people to donate the money they wanted for him to an organization called Lost'N'Found, which is renovating a building to serve as a homeless shelter for LGBT youth and, so far, some $10,000 from Daniel’s supporters has been raised; the group plans to open the shelter in the spring of 2015.
So many of us, after coming out, lose our families and our friends to homophobia and religious intolerance, and so we turn to others to create our own families; families who love us, accept us, help us on with our lives. Family is not always who you are born into; sometimes it’s who you find out there along the way.
When Daniel's own family turned their backs on him he found a family of strangers waiting to help. And now he's becoming family for another group of strangers as well.
That’s called Gaying It Forward.