My heart and mind are FULL as I just finished attending the Free Mom Hugs conference in Oklahoma City, OK.

The goal of the organization is to celebrate the LGBTQIA2S+ community and offer support and education to allies. They are most often known for showing up at Pride Parades and literally offering free hugs to the LGBTQIA2S+ community when their own families won’t support them. They also officiate queer weddings or stand in as moms/dads/family members at weddings.

It is hard to sum up all that is stirring in me after spending two and half days with members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community and their allies (many of them parents of a child in the queer community).

Amazing and Heartbreaking Stories

So many amazing and heartbreaking stories were shared at the conference. One that really punched me in the stomach was a mom who shared when she gave a hug to someone at a pride parade. That person thanked her because they hadn’t hugged their own mom in four years because their mom was unwilling. I can’t fathom this. I was so emotional after the conference the first thing I did was call my husband and then I called my own mom. Not because I necessarily wanted anything from her, but because I just wanted an emotional connection with her. I just wanted my mom. I felt vulnerable and wanted some reassurance.

How did we end up in a place where moms won’t hug their kids or dads won’t speak to their kids? This is not right.

My Story

I want to start with a personal story. After the conference, I crossed the street to find some lunch at the local farmer’s market. I kept seeing women walking by with Free Mom Hugs t-shirts, rainbow leggings, and Pride shirts. I didn’t feel alone because I could literally see my community. Three hours later, I walked down the same street to find a coffee shop. No more pride t-shirts, no more hugging moms; just me with my rainbow t-shirt on. Just at that moment two buses full of real, actual Oklahoma cowboys pulled up and descended upon the coffee shop I was in. Immediately, I felt tense. I wasn’t sure why at first. Then I realized, do they think I’m gay because of my t-shirt? I didn’t feel ashamed in this moment. I felt afraid.

My community was gone and I was on my own. Who would back me up if someone said something to me? Or worse, tried to hit me?

In this moment, I realized how much privilege I have. This is not a daily occurrence for me. I wear my rainbow shirts at home and have never feared for my safety. I’ve never even been approached about my t-shirts. I have the choice to wear my shirts or not. This is not the daily experience of the queer community.

Trans Youth

In light of that I want to highlight trans youth for a moment. This was the most gut-wrenching plea I heard the whole weekend. At the end of the conference, they had an open mic time to share what impacted you from the conference. Two separate youth psychiatric workers spoke, both in tears begging and pleading for others to help protect and advocate for trans youth. One of them, a doctor, said before Covid and before the current political climate he had in his center 5,000 youth patients. Now that number is up to 18,000. He said, “We are exhausted. Please help.”

What can you do

If you don’t know how, look up local shelters in your area or organizations that support trans youth. If there are none, look up local laws that are being used against trans youth and call your representatives. Use your voice and vote. Be sure to check out my Resources page as well for frequent updates.

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