GSU Student Lives Pride Year-Round
Randall Krause almost didn't make it. The 39-year-old graduate from Governors State University traveled a hard road before earning his bachelor's degree in psychology this past spring. Now set to enter a master's program at GSU that will allow him to continue on his path of compassion—his goal is to work with LGBTQ and other marginalized youth—he reflects on his journey.
"Pride Month for me is about being proud of who I am. It's about walking out of my house and knowing that I have everything I fought for for so long and not being ashamed of it," Krause said.
"I came out at 15 as a gay man. Fortunately I had a family that really was supportive of me, but the community as a whole was not," he said. "We lived in a town of less than 300 (residents), and I was bullied in my childhood. I was really terrorized. I tried to kill myself four times. I grew up being told that I wouldn't amount to anything by my community and culture."
He speaks with the gentleness of a person who knows the damage roughness deals. He's careful with his words, delivering each one deliberately. The story he tells, although unique, is similar to ones lived by too many people in the LGBTQ community. Bullying, depression, abuse—he dropped out of high school for an entire year at one point to escape what he describes as "torment" from his peers and the complacency of school staff.
"When the kids would call me 'fag,' the teachers wouldn't do anything. Some of them laughed," he said. "There was not a safe spot for me in the school."
Although he re-enrolled in a different district and eventually graduated, Krause said he found himself homeless, addicted, and prostituting in Chicago after high school. Then in the early aughts—in recovery and living in Tampa—he was diagnosed with HIV.
"The disease took control of me.I couldn't handle it mentally. I started doing drugs again," Krause said.
He said it was only when he got clean again and an outreach counselor at an HIV clinic suggested he start working with LGBTQ youth and other HIV patients that he moved from victim to advocate.
"I no longer had to look at HIV as a diagnosis that was going to control my life. It was a disease I had that I was going to control, and I could help others," he said. "I moved home to Illinois and started talking with legislators about the issues we have when it comes to HIV, same-sex marriage, equal rights in general, and I became very active in PFLAG. I started contacting schools and going to Springfield. I really found my purpose."
Krause, who works part-time in Student Life at GSU, said that when he arrived at Governors State, he felt accepted by the community as soon as he walked in the door.
"Nancy at the welcome desk, Patricia in financial aid, our Gender and Sexuality Club—GSU is a very supportive university. I've spoken in numerous classes on campus about being HIV positive, guest lectured, and spoken at open forums. Everybody here is really open."
"When I was 15 years old, I looked at my life and thought, 'I can't do anything. I'm not going to have a future.' But now I have my bachelor's degree, I had a 4.0 gpa, I own my house, am happily married—I have a great life and a great future.
"I live Pride 365 days a year. Nobody is ever going to tell me I can't be who I am again. I see Pride Month as a time when people who—for one reason or another—can't be who they are, can go to Chicago or any other city and be with their community. It's a time when young LGBTQ kids can go and say, 'I'm not alone. There are more people like me.' Because we're here. We exist. And we exist in so many different colors."
Did you or will you attend a Pride event this month? We want to see your photos! Show us how you Pride! Tag your photos #GovState on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
If you are struggling with any part of your identity, questioning your orientation, or are otherwise in need of mental health care, the GSU Counseling Center can be reached at 708.235.7334 or by email.