I attended the Louisville Pride Festival last weekend. I’ve always gone as an ally with my daughter to the events and every single one I have felt so much love. Even for this straight mom, who could have easily been made to feel unwelcome, I was welcomed with open arms, even when outside of the festival they were often treated the opposite.
This event was different as I was a volunteer with Free Mom Hugs-Kentucky. If you have not heard of them, they are a group of moms who go to Pride events (parades, festivals, Drag Queen Story Hour) and offer hugs and high-fives for anyone who wants them. Started in 2015 by Sara Cunningham who is the mother of a gay son, she started going to Pride events and giving hugs to show participants they are loved and accepted. There are now chapters in all 50 states.
I knew immediately that I wanted to do this. I found out last Saturday how much it is needed. I gave out so many hugs. Many of them were from kids who had heard of the “free mom hugs” and just wanted to hug us or high five us. There were some who hugged us, even though they had families who accepted them just the way they are, but weren’t going to turn down a hug from a mom. For every one that had accepting family there were twice as many who were not. We hugged until they wanted to let go. We told them how much they are loved, accepted and perfect they way they are. We told them we are proud of them and, like the mom I am, I added the “be safe.” I knew it would be emotional. I knew it would be needed. I just didn’t realize how much it would impact me personally. I can still see their faces, hear their voices telling me “thank you,” “I needed this,” “my mom (dad/parents/family) don’t accept me.” They impacted me in ways I never expected.
Next weekend, I will be doing it again at the Southern Indiana Pride Festival and the following weekend I will be going to Lexington Pride. With each hug, I gain a new “daughter” and “son” and I will fight for their rights just like I would my own.
For more information on how to be a part of this amazing group search for Free Mom Hugs on Facebook (Free Mom Hugs-Kentucky or Free Mom Hugs-Indiana are the two chapters I am with).