Sometimes coming-out stories are heartwarming tales of acceptance and love. Other times they are tragic accounts of abandonment and abuse.
Ashley Pierce, a 20-year-old from Georgia, came out as gay last October. At the time, his father was unresponsive and his stepmother seemed supportive. However, things took a turn for the worse Wednesday when Pierce found himself a part of what he describes as a “delayed intervention” involving his father, stepmother and grandparents.
He apparently captured footage of the interaction on camera.
“I wanted to make sure there was evidence in case something happened,” Pierce told The Huffington Post in an email.
WARNING: Video at bottom of post may be disturbing.
Pierce’s video began going viral after it was posted by Dan Savage with Seattle’s The Stranger. In the five-minute clip, which does not focus on any individual’s face, the people in the room with Pierce can be heard telling him his sexuality is a choice. When he disputes that, they use religion as an argument.
“No, you can believe that if you want to,” a woman, presumably his grandmother, can be heard saying, “but I believe in the word of God, and God creates nobody that way. It’s a path that you have chosen to choose. … You go by all the scientific stuff you want to. I’m going by the word of God.” She goes on to say that since Pierce has “chosen that path” they will no longer support him and he needs to move out because she “will not let people believe that I condone what you do.”
Pierce asks his stepmother if he can stay in the house, but she refuses.
“You’re full of s**t,” she says. “You told me on the phone that you made that choice. You know you wasn’t born that way. You know damn 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.”
At this point, an apparent physical altercation occurs. The camera starts moving, and Pierce can be heard yelling to the woman to stop hitting him. A man yells, “You’re a damn queer.” At the end of the video, someone calls him “a disgrace.”
Pierce took to Facebook to discuss what happened Wednesday:
What a day…. i thought that waking up at 9:48 and being 15 mins late to work was going to be the biggest problem today. but i didn’t know that my biggest problem was going to be getting disowned and kicked out of my home of almost twenty years. to add insult to injury my step mother punched me in the face repeatedly with my grandmother cheering her along. i am still in complete shock and disbelief [all sic].
“Their reaction was pretty much expected [once] I chose to leave instead of pray because they have always been very vocal about not supporting the gay lifestyle,” he told HuffPost. “My [stepmother’s] reaction was the most surprising and hurtful.”
The family members involved in the intervention, which he says was “driven by my grandparents,” have not contacted the media, but they left Pierce a voicemail telling him to remove the video of the incident from YouTube. Pierce also says he did not contact police over the apparent altercation in the video.
The footage, originally posted by Pierce’s friend, had more than 700,000 views, as of Thursday afternoon. Pierce’s story has been covered by the Advocate, the Daily Dot and the New Civil Rights Movement. A GoFundMe campaign was set up to help raise money to cover Pierce’s living expenses; by Thursday, it had collected more than $19,000.
WARNING: This video contains graphic language and may be disturbing.
The GoFundMe campaign set up for Pierce has raised almost $80,000 as of Friday evening.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the aftermath of coming out or other issues related to being an LGBT youth or young adult, visit the Family Acceptance Project and The Trevor Project for resources.