October is LGBTQ history month, and we are so excited for another month to celebrate our LGBTQ family and friends.
We know that without those courageous allies and activists from our past, we would not have the freedom and avenues to advocate for the changes we seek today. We are also aware that we (YOU and us) are making history. Together, we are making the world an even kinder and safer place for so many to be able to be free to be their authentic selves.
And some day, Free Mom Hugs, and all the volunteers, will be a movement the world will talk about as making an impact in the lives of so many. We have been able to change the course of many relationships, businesses, schools, churches and policies that affect the LGBTQ communities. All because of you.
We think often of those LGBTQ historical sites and have taken three of our four Free Mom Hugs tours to those significant locations. The first tour’s destination was Stonewall, New York. The birthplace of the Stonewall Riots, that began a movement of equal rights and treatment of gay and transgender persons, who had been at the center of discrimination and violence for years. It was at Stonewall that the LGBTQ community said, “enough is enough!” and began to fight for themselves, along with many other devoted and courageous allies.
The second Free Mom Hugs Tour was to Laramie, Wyoming. This trip was to visit the site of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder. This devastating crime was traumatic not only for the LGBTQ+ community, but also for the parents and family who love them and feared for their safety. Matthew Shepard’s case brought awareness to the severity of the discrimination and fear many in the LGBTQ community face, but it also brought about the first hate crime legislation that to set into place protections against such violent attacks. Matthew’s mother Judy Shepard continues to educate and advocate as a fierce mama bear for so many.
Free Mom Hugs went to San Francisco, California on our third cross country tour. We arrived in the Castro District for Mother’s Day and we were instantly transported back in time to the Harvey Milk era and sacrifices made there for the right to be fully yourself. Harvey Milk was one of the first openly gay elected officials in California. He was bold in his beliefs in the power of coming out to change the stigma and perceptions the public had about LGBTQ people. He worked with Gilbert Baker to create a symbol of Pride for the LGBTQ community to help folks be more visible and proud of who they are. This symbol still unites the queer communities and serves as a sign of safety and support for businesses and allies alike. And of course, it is in our logo of a mama bear hugging her rainbow cub.
Just like so many other significant and important locations to the story of LGBTQ persons, we hold Oklahoma City dear to our hearts as the birthplace of Free Mom Hugs. It was here that Sara began her journey from the church to the pride parade with a homemade button that read Free Mom Hugs. With a few friends and stories of rejection, she embarked on a mission to help those who needed someone to stand in as a loving, supportive parent. And for many, the hug at Pride gave those a few moments of love and comfort that last long after the hug ends. We started out with a few parents donating money to buy young adults buy items to help such a bus pass, gas card, a plane ticket to a safe family member or a warm hotel room out of the Oklahoma cold. With a stronger foundation of support, that small group became a National Non-Profit with chapters all over the country and a logo recognized worldwide. We spoke often of our mission using the metaphor that we are “pulling kids out of the river and setting them on safe dry land.” As the movement exploded, we realized what we really needed to do was to stop the kids from being tossed in the river in the first place. And this is where we adjusted our mission to focus on education and advocacy work.
“We empower the world to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community through visibility, education and conversation. And yes, we still give hugs.”
So as we move through LGBTQ History Month, know that we are continuing the work to celebrate and empower those who will continue to make history long after the Free Mom Hugs movement is gone. Because ultimately, we would love to have a world where Free Mom Hugs is no longer needed. A place where families and communities have complete understanding of the beauty and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community makes to society. A place where they are seen as a gift to the world.
Are you ready to make history? Join us at freemomhugs.org