Earlier this year, news began to circulate about 18-year-old Chaira Harder, whose parents refused to pay for her college expenses because she is gay.
In response to her family’s backlash, she organized a GoFundMe to cover the cost of room and board. Harder plans to attend the prestigious Smith College in Northampton, Mass. this fall to study computer science with the goal of helping human trafficking victims after graduation.
“As of today, May 15, my parents have unexpectedly decided to stop giving me financial support because I am gay,” the GoFundMe page read. “I recently committed to Smith College in Massachusetts, but I am now in need of 15,000 USD (18,160 CAD) per year to attend (I plan to attend for 4 years to complete my bachelor’s degree) as that is part of the amount my dad said he would contribute when I filled out my CSS profile.”
Harder, who spent most of her childhood in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, says her parents first became aware of her sexuality when she was in ninth grade after reading her journal without permission. At the time, Harder had a girlfriend, but her parents immediately cut off their communication.
Later on, Harder was forced to attend several anti-gay meetings at a church in Vietnam, where ministers tried to exorcise her LGBTQ identity. She also met weekly with a Christian woman for about a year where she underwent conversion therapy. Harder was asked to pray to “break the chains of homosexuality.”
Harder moved to Canada about a year ago to live with her aunt and grandparents, but that decision was due to an unrelated family conflict issue. However, when Harder’s parents learned that she joined a LGBTQ group in Canada, they immediately confronted her. Taking a stand and refusing her parents’ constant attempts to change her sexuality, that is when they cut her off financially.
As of Aug. 10, Harder had received over $14,000 in Canadian currency from several hundred donors, many of whom are Smith College alums. She also received a social justice award and scholarship from Kelowna Pride Society.
Her max goal is $18,000.
To learn more of Harder’s story, click the “support” tag on her Instagram account.