With August in full swing, college students are beginning to make plans to head to school. Maybe they’re returning, or for many they’ll be entering as college freshmen. Kate Koenig, 19, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has been fighting since the beginning of her freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh to be able to stay in school. Even with Pitt ranking the most expensive for in-state students out of all public institutions, Kate never anticipated having as much of a financial burden as she does now.
Back in September of 2013, Kate received a letter from her parents letting her know that she was cut off. Their reasoning? Kate identifies as pansexual (attraction to all genders). They came about this when Kate’s father opened a check she received from PayPal in the mail. The check sent was from Will, her boyfriend, who is transgender, to allow her enough money to take a week off from work. After some more snooping, Kate’s father happened upon her Tumblr where he saw she identified as pansexual and that her boyfriend was transgender. In the strictly religious and intolerant household, this would not fly.
Almost immediately after her parents informed her she was being cut off, Kate went to her financial aid office at Pitt, where she was essentially shooed out and told to get a loan.
Kate has been working to save for college and virtually all of her other expenses tirelessly, but unfortunately she was recently fired from her job at Costco due to cut backs. She secured temp/summer work, but that’s only a fix for now. Kate has multiple expenses she also has to take care of which included all of the basics (home, food, water, heating, etc.) as well as expensive medication for her asthma and other ailments.
Just recently, Kate started a GoFundMe which garnered national news attention from sources like Huffington Post UK, New York Daily News and ABC News. She’s reached very close to her goal of $15,000 to assist her in covering Pitt’s $17k+ in-state tuition. She also has a PayPal donate button on her blog where you can contribute after the campaign is finished. She’s been frequent updates on her GoFundMe page to address concerns that her story is fake or that she’s playing the “gay card” as some in the comments have called it (whatever that is, it sounds like a really fun game of poker to me).
A common thread on all of the negative backlash Kate has gotten from her story being so public has been something like, “well why doesn’t she just get a loan and work for it?” Unfortunately it’s not that easy. There are virtually no loans for 19 year old college students with no credit history. They all require a co-signer, which something Kate doesn’t have. The very limited extended family she has was informed by her parents to not assist her in any way. They believe she is mentally unstable and needs to be put on medication to “fix” her sexual orientation. Her boyfriend’s parents want desperately to help, but due to financial hardships they weren’t able to.
Kate came from a background where she knew she would not be able to come out. Her family being vehemently religious (particularly her father), she would constantly hear anti-gay rants. Kate was also told growing up that she was fat and if she continued to stay fat she would never be able to get a husband. This pushed Kate to develop an eating disorder, which she only recently was able to recover from.
Kate recalls one particular fight where her father and her got into a heated argument over something small and trivial, so small and trivial in fact she can’t even recall what it was about. The argument reached a point where he simply told her to pack her things and leave the house. She did so, and unsure of where to go, she went to her then boyfriend’s house. His mother called the house, and of course, it was handled as a big misunderstanding. Despite Kate’s protest, her mother came to get her and insisted her father didn’t actually mean for her to actually leave the house.
Kate is now living outside Chicago with her boyfriend and his parents. They’ve taken her in like their own daughter. Laticia Miller, Will’s mother, has probably been her greatest advocate. She was the original one to coin the #KeepKateinCollege hashtag that virally spread along with the story. Without the support of Will’s family there is no telling where she would be now.
UPDATE: Since this story was written Kate has reached her fundraising goal through GoFundMe. Any additional funds she raises are to go to her junior and senior year of college at Pitt.