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Global Love: Crowd-funding to reunite transgender couple

Samantha Madar | Photo Editor Royal Oak sophomore Kai Niezgoda skypes his boyfriend, Jax Denton, who lives in Australia, Monday night in Larzelere Hall.

Long-distance relationships can be difficult.

When the distance of the relationship spans the entire Pacific Ocean and more than 10,000 miles, it certainly does not make the situation any easier.

For Royal Oak sophomore Kai Niezgoda, this and more than $2,000 in airfare are precisely what he must overcome in order to visit his boyfriend, Jax Denton, who lives in Australia.

Denton and Niezgoda, who first met on an LGBTQ forum about two and a half years ago, were able to embrace for the first time in July. Both identify themselves as neither men or women, but are receptive to male pronouns.

“It was amazing, I don’t even know how to describe it, it was like being in a movie,” Niezgoda said. “I walked off the plane and he brought me flowers and it was the sweetest thing ever. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to replicate a feeling like that again.”

Denton agreed the event was unprecedented.

“It was pretty great, I had arrived at the airport two and a half hours early and his plane arrived an hour later, so it was almost three hours of waiting.” Denton said while laughing. “But, from the first instant we were together in person, it was natural and felt like I was talking to him just as before.”

Since that beautiful summer day, the pair was only able to reconnect in person on one other occasion.

College tuition, living expenses and various other financial constraints have made it impossible for the two to see one another more frequently.

After months of separation, they spotted the crowd-funding site GoFundMe as an option to bring them together.

“We both saw other long-distance couples in similar situations and crowd-funding online,” Niezgoda said. “Neither of us were completely really comfortable with the idea to start with, but it’s kind of a last-ditch effort.”

Denton, who is on temporary leave from the Adelaide-based University of South Australia, said the idea came about because of Niezgoda’s social media savvy.

A month after its initial inception, the “Bring Jax and Kai Back Together” GoFundMe has raised $400 of its $1,800 goal.

Various rewards from contributing to the campaign include participating in a Google Hangout/Skype chat with the couple, custom digital and print illustrations, Australian candy and a digital recipe book.

“One of our favorite things is definitely baking, we’re both admirers of baked goods,” Denton said. “Both of us as children did a lot of it then, and continue to enjoy it now.”

Denton said his favorite recipes include cookies, muffins and an assortment of desserts and proper meals.

“Kai has been complaining for months now that nothing in the world is as good as my curry and that he needs it,” Denton said jokingly.

As of April 9, a dozen people pledged financial backing to the couple.

One such individual was Kansas City junior Nikita Secor, a friend of Niezgoda.

Secor, who herself is transgender and gender fluid, said the two met initially through Transcend, an RSO that acts as a supportive community to the transgender community, to which Niezgoda heads as president.

“I donated so they would able to see each other and have that actual physical connection and be happy,” Secor said. “Who doesn’t want to see their friends be happy, you know?”

Whether three months, six months or a year passes before he can once again embrace Denton, Niezgoda is confident the relationship will overcome any obstacles being separated by such a great distance might bring.

“Sometimes it can be super difficult but, all in all, I think both of us are very independent and self-reliant with honesty and trust with one another,” Niezgoda said. “Building off of that, it isn’t too hard.”

Despite being separated by a time zone difference of 12.5 hours, Niezgoda said a favorite activity includes Skype dating.

While on a Skype date, the pair will typically simultaneously stream a movie while chatting and laughing together.

Difficulties also arise out of the inability to physically comfort one another, Niezgoda said.

“If he feels sad, I can’t just give him a hug,” he said. “I’ll have to make something for him or say something to make him feel better.”