In spite of the warm breeze from the open window beckoning one student to enjoy the good weather in the final hours before the sun goes down on a Friday night, they sit in the quiet of their home, shaking even though the air conditioning isn’t on.
A few paragraphs drafted weeks ago sit in an unsent message.
“Do it,” they say to the friend next to them, whose finger hovers over the enter key.
The message is sent, but any relief is immediately stolen from the room as the three dancing dots appear on screen. The two stare at the laptop with bated breath, trying not to let their hopes run away with them in those few long moments.
“Love you. Need time.”
The message is shorter than expected given the long wait.
For junior Daph Bergren, coming out wasn’t a conversation they could have in person, so they opted to send a message, giving their parents time and space to process the news.
Bergren, a nonbinary lesbian, said they didn’t expect a positive reaction from their Christian parents and was pleasantly surprised by the brief but still overall positive initial response.
It wasn’t until a few days later when the truth of what wasn’t being said turned their world upside-down. A message from their brother revealed their dad’s decision to stop paying for Bergren’s tuition before the final bill of the semester.
“I thought something about this was wrong; it just didn’t feel right,” Bergren said. “My dad only messaged me a few days ago to call me a meanie and blame me for all this and tell me that I’m just lying to myself.”
After receiving the news that they’d be on their own for their last tuition bill, Bergren set up a GoFundMe page and shared it on Facebook, asking for help since it was too late in the year to seek financial aid from the school.
GoFundMe has more than 2,000 pages dedicated to LGBTQ issues, from events to creative projects, to pages like Bergren’s ‒ LGBTQ youth and young adults in financial troubles because of coming out or being outed.
Bergren has received $230 of the $2,000 goal so far.
“I set up a GoFundMe hoping that it would gain any traction,” Bergren said. “My friend had just done one, and he’d gotten a lot of responses on it and a lot of help.”
That friend was freshman Noah Wolfe, who came out as trans to his parents over spring break, after which he was disowned by them. Wolfe maintains some communication with his parents, but he moved out of their house and no longer receives any financial support from them.
Wolfe said he knew he had to come out to his parents before summer because the cost to his mental health of being closeted for three months would be too high.
“Over winter break I went home, and literally every single day I just got worse and worse mentally,” Wolfe said. “My boyfriend was like, ‘I can’t watch you do this; this is awful. You need to go see your therapist as soon as you get back.’ And then I realized that that was one month, I can’t survive three months during the summer.”
Wolfe said he knew the response from his parents would be negative, and though he was mentally ready to move out of his parents’ house, it would still be a financial strain.
“I was a little bit dumb and came out the first day of spring break, within an hour of getting home,” Wolfe said. “I immediately went upstairs, called my best friend’s mom and asked if she was home and if I could come over. I packed up as much as I could that night and left.”
Wolfe said his parents’ first reaction was to take more control of his life. They wanted him to transfer to a college in his hometown and go to church more. He said that one reason he didn’t come out in high school was because he knew their response would be to use religion to “fix” his transness.
“I knew that that was one of their likely reactions in high school as well, since they couldn’t necessarily kick me out right then, they would go towards taking more control than they already had,” Wolfe said.
He said he’d rather deal with the financial burden of moving out than constantly fighting his parents trying to change him.
Wolfe posted his GoFundMe April 6 asking for donations to cover moving expenses and starting hormone replacement therapy and received $800 in the first three days. In total, Wolfe has raised $1,023 of the $5,000 goal.
Immediately after Wolfe created the GoFundMe page, Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion Adam Gonzales shared the page on Facebook.
“Being someone who was also disowned by my biological parents, I kind of know what that can feel like,” Gonzales said. “But when I came out, I was already pretty independent, so the loss of support was not as much; I wasn’t in the middle of college.”
Gonzales said he remembered the people who reached out and helped him during that time, so he wanted to pay that forward.
“That first day was when Adam shared it, and everyone from Northwest was helping me out,” Wolfe said. “I got several messages saying, ‘This was because someone helped me out my freshman year.’”
However, for LGBTQ youth without friends and family to donate to crowdfunding pages, many become homeless.
A University of Chicago report found LGBTQ young adults had a 120% higher risk of reporting homelessness compared to youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender.
The report, “Missed Opportunities, National Estimates,” also found that LGBTQ youth comprise up to 40% of the total unaccompanied homeless youth population, even though they make up 5-10% of the overall youth population.
Gonzales said that although social progress has been made in terms of acceptance of LGBTQ identities, parents reacting negatively to their children’s identities is a deep-rooted issue because of some social institutions.
“I think so long as you have institutions, organizations who are founded upon a primary belief that LGBTQ folks are disordered or evil,” Gonzales said. “So long as those ideologies are accepted somewhere within our society, you will always have folks who will disown their children.”
Gonzales said that people who act hatefully out of fear, misunderstanding or ignorance may eventually change and become accepting, but those who base their decisions in a political or religious ideology are less likely to change.
Wolfe said he has little hope for mending his relationship with his parents.
“We are currently going to family therapy, to at the very least help them to understand that this is not just a me thing, this is a many-people thing, and that despite their Christian beliefs, it can be backed up and that it’s not just a phase,” Wolfe said. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen. They have not been very receptive to change in the past.”
Bergren said their dream is to open an LGBTQ cafe, which would offer a safe, alcohol-free community space for the community, and they would like to create a rolling fund to offer financial assistance to LGBTQ youth in the form of grants and scholarships.
Gonzales also said he imagines a future where more organizations can provide support for disenfranchised LGBTQ people and provide community for those who feel alone.
“Feeling like you don’t belong in this world is one of the most damaging things that can happen to you,” Gonzales said. “Having that wind under your wings makes all the difference.”