Chicago Student Tom Cui is Desperate to Fund a Life with His North Minnesota Boyfriend


What does an international Chinese student attending college in Chicago have in common with a small town North Minnesota kid? Actually quite a bit.

Tom Cui is an econ senior attending Northwestern University. He met his boyfriend Bryan on an online politics and policy forum one year and one month ago, where they got to talking about everything from history to the economy to poverty.

When former Gov. Tim Pawlenty rolled back healthcare subsidies for the poorest of the poor in 2009, Bryan's family could no longer afford his college loans on top of his mother's medical bills, Cui quickly learned. It kind of ruined his life.

Turns out politics breeds romance. The two eventually struck up a long-distance relationship, and now Cui's taken to gofundme to transplant Bryan in Chicago. They've raised $620 out of their $4,000 goal in three days - just as the situation in Bryan's hometown of Bemidji, Minn., is about as dire as it could get.

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In March, Bryan's mother passed away and his stepdad evicted him from their trailer so he could remarry. He now lives with his birth dad in a dilapidated cabin built about a decade ago. There's no plumbing, but plenty of rats. Bryan asked that we not use his last name because of how recognizable it would be in his community.

Over the past year, Cui tried to support Bryan on his own, sending him care packs full of food and $2,000 in remittances from his TA stipend. Now his own resources are running low - and the two are asking for help.

"So $4,000 is a reach goal, you might as well reach for the moon," Cui says. "If I did have that $4,000, that's enough for him to buy some more clothes so he has more than one pair of jeans, he can buy medication again for his blood pressure, he can buy some food and eat healthier again."

Whatever is left over they'll spend on rent. Bryan had planned on moving in with Cui by Christmas, but recently moving his job meant he didn't even have the money to make it over.

"It's a very oppressive place almost," Cui said of Bemidji, where he's visited Bryan twice. "He wants to leave this place because there's a lot of broken memories and he wants to get a fresh start somewhere. And it is about being together with the person you're in a relationship with."

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