June was LGBT Pride Month, a celebration marked with parades and rallies held all over the world. It’s a yearly reminder of the importance of community and acceptance—and for those who unfortunately don’t receive that from their own families, there are compassionate people happy step up and fill in.
When the Austin Pride was held last August, among the LGBT celebrators was a group from a local church. While religious protests are still a common sight at pride parades, this group had something very different in mind.
They were there to give out hugs.
Among the group was bestselling author and blogger Jen Hatmaker. In an inspiring Instagram post, Hatmaker explains that she and her fellow church members were there to give out “free mom hugs” and “free dad hugs,” offering the kind of embrace members of the LGBT community might not be getting from their own families.
“Our arms were never empty,” Hatmaker wrote. “We ‘happy hugged’ a ton of folks.”
Hatmaker, a mother of five, said these were no ordinary hugs—they were the special kind only a loving parent could give. “When I say hugs, I mean THE KIND A MAMA GIVES HER BELOVED KID,” she wrote.
According to Hatmaker, the free hugs were readily embraced by the LGBT members of the crowd.
“Dozens of times, I’d spot someone in the parade look our way, squint at our shirts and posters, and RACE into our arms,” Hatmaker recalled.
They were bittersweet moments, with hug recipients often revealing the strained relationships with their own less-understanding family members. Hatmaker says she heard things like “My mom doesn’t love me anymore” and “My Dad hasn’t spoken to me in three years.”
“We told them over and over that they were impossibly loved and needed and precious,” Hatmaker said. “And we hugged until our arms fell off. This is what we are doing here, what we are here for.”
The group was acting on behalf of Free Mom Hugs, a nonprofit organization made up of parents and allies fighting for LGBT rights. “We are dedicated to educating families, church, and civic leaders encouraging them to not only affirm the LGBTQ+ community but to celebrate them,” the organization’s site says.
In addition to giving out hugs, they also offer important services like financial assistance for emergency travel and shelter and covering legal expenses.
After an emotional day of bonding with strangers in need of a little love, Hatmaker had the time for one victory selfie, writing that it’s “what you look like at the end of Pride covered in glitter, sweat, and more than a few tears.”
June may be over, but pride keeps on going. Share this story!