A fundraiser for 18-year-old Seth Owen, whose parents subjected him to conversion therapy before kicking him out, has made it possible for him to commence college later this year.
Owen graduated co-valedictorian of his Florida high school, but after he was forced to choose between continuing therapy intended to make him straight and staying at home and leaving on his own path, he chose the latter.
But the scholarship he received to Georgetown University was based on the notion that his parents would be supporting him.
With his parents having rejected him, the aid package the university provided wouldn’t be generous enough – and the school rejected his request for assistance following his change of circumstances.
But one of Owen’s high school teachers came to his rescue, launching a GoFundMe page to ensure that his bright future wasn’t derailed by his parents’ lack of understanding.
“I taught Seth biology and mentored him throughout his high school years. He was the ring bearer in my wedding,” she wrote on the fundraiser page.
“Last month, I watched him walk across the stage in a Jacksonville arena weighted down by more cords and medals to count. I’m writing this community for help.
“His parents have refused to support him emotionally or financially because they deem his sexual orientation inconsistent with their religious beliefs.
“Throughout this all, Seth held his head high and continued to work almost full-time while finishing high school at the top of his class as the co-valedictorian.
“It’s Pride Month and rainbows abound around the world. Help me bring a rainbow in the midst of Seth’s storm.”
The GoFundMe has now exceeded the $20,000 goal, currently sitting at just over $50,000 – meaning Owen is more than covered for his first year of school.
Owen told News4JAX that his father searched his phone to discover he was gay, which led to him being sent to counselling.
“They made it clear the intention was to make me straight. [That] was their end goal.”
While he was still living at home, Owen committed to three jobs, swimming, and after school programs in order to stay busy.
“I guess you could say it was easier to try to avoid home. I felt like I was doing something good with the struggle instead of doing something damaging,” he said.
Owen said his parents told him to “either go to church or you can move out”.
“I called a mentor. I said, I can’t do this. I went back in and asked, ‘Is there any way that we can compromise,’ and my dad said no.
“I was really, really upset. It was extremely hurtful to know that I was walking out that door not knowing what lay ahead and feeling I don’t know how to explain it, but it was devastating, absolutely devastating.”
“I don’t think thank you is good enough. Of course I am extremely grateful, but I think thank you doesn’t say it. Now it’s time to pay it forward,” Owen said.
He plans to become a defence lawyer for young people in order to make good on the support he has received.
Earlier this month, the San Francisco LGBTI community rallied to raise money for the funeral of trans teenager whose parents refused to claim his body.