Help Youssef Get an Education

Youssef is an eighteen-year-old gay man living in a Muslim-majority country where it is a crime to be gay. Last year, after listening to his friends talk about how homosexuals ought to be murdered, a deep sadness began to grow inside him. One day he climbed to the roof of his home and pleaded with God: “God, why did you make me this way? Why couldn’t you make me different?” He began to wonder if maybe he wouldn’t be better off dead.

Instead, Youssef turned to the Internet, and began to learn about the world outside his home country. He reached out to me because he is a devout Muslim, and he wanted to talk to someone who is deeply religious and gay. He asked me, “How did you deal with being gay when you were young?”

Despite growing up in extreme poverty, like so many young gay men I know, Youssef is extremely intelligent and worked hard to educate himself. His father died when he was young, and his mother has been caring for him and his younger sister on an income of less than $3,000 a year. But Youssef speaks five languages, including fluent English. His grades in school have been good enough that several good schools he’s applied to in the United States have offered him scholarships. He knows that education is his path out of poverty and powerlessness, and he wants to study computer science.

A college in Florida guaranteed him a partial scholarship and wanted to fly him to the U.S. to conduct a face-to-face interview to determine whether to give him a full scholarship.

Youssef ran into a brick wall at the American consulate in his homeland. The consul made some vague accusations to the effect that “people like him” just wanted to come into our country to “stir things up.” He couldn’t convince the consul that his love for his mother and his little sister constituted a “sufficient tie to his homeland” to grant him a tourist visa to be interviewed for the scholarship. The college refused to do videoconference interviews, and the opportunity was lost.

Youssef realized that trying to get into the U.S. was probably a dead end, and has begun applying to other schools in less islamophobic countries closer to home where he would be more safe as a gay man, and where he could get the kind of higher education he needs in order to provide for himself and his family.

He just received a letter of acceptance from TED University in Ankara, Turkey, with a promise of  at least a 25% scholarship. But the funds he needs to make up the difference are way beyond the capacity of his mother to help make his dream a reality.

I want to help Youssef out of the double bind of being unsafe in his home country because he is gay, and being unable to emigrate to a Western country where he might be safe because he is Muslim. He is hard-working, smart, and compassionate. Helping him will not only save him, but it will save his mother and his sister from a life of grinding poverty and fear. $36,000 is what he needs for a full four-year education, with $9,000 due the first year.

Please contribute anything you can!


My name is John Gustav-Wrathall and I'm from Minneapolis, MN. I'm a leader within the LGBTQ Mormon community (Executive Director of Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends). Youssef reached out to me because of my visibility as a gay man who is also a person of faith, and over the course of a couple months we got to know each other as we discussed issues related to faith, coming out, and relationships. He turned to me as a mentor as he tried to figure out how to deal with these issues in relation to his own family, friends and the society he lives in.

The funds we raise will be used for tuition, student fees, books, room & board, travel to and from school, and other costs related to establishing residency at his school in Turkey. GoFundMe won't allow Youssef to withdraw the funds himself, so I am withdrawing the funds and will transfer them to Youssef via PayPal, from which Youssef can then transfer the funds to a personal bank account he's set up to fund his education.

I have copies of Youssef's passport, school transcripts and diploma, college acceptance letters and scholarship offers, and will be collecting receipts of all his expenses (such as the tuition deposit he made on June 1). If anyone has any questions about accountability, please contact me directly!

Thank you so much for helping!

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John Gustav-Wrathall 
Minneapolis, MN
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