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May 11, 2020

Leader Spotlight: Robin Parker

The Kentucky chapter volunteers know they have a leader at the helm that is made of solid gold. Robin is not the kind of person that “just has ideas,” she is the person that has an idea and then executes. Over and over again. The Kentucky chapter has been represented at hundreds of events AND on top of that she stays closely connected with those of us at the national level.

Robin, thank you for your dedication and hard work, we could not do Free Mom Hugs without you.

Tell us about your journey and how you came to a place of support for the LGBTQIA+ community.

I have always had a strong sense of equality for all people and have been an ally to the community as long as I can remember.  It hasn’t been a journey so much as a way of life for me. Having a child that is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community simply ramped up my involvement as an ally and I am so happy to be able to do what I do!

If you have an LGBTQIA+ child, your “reason”, tell us about them, him, or her.

My reason is a fraternal twin who is 17 years old now.  He is an incredibly sweet, caring person, who is very creative and has a variety of interests.  He loves kids, animals, music, art, gaming, and all things Japanese, just to name a few.  I knew from an early age-maybe 4 or 5, that he might be a community member.  When he turned 10, he started questioning his sexuality. He came out as bisexual in middle school and before entering high school, he identified as gay. He now identifies as non-binary.  He’s had a rough journey living in a small town and was harassed and bullied to the point that we placed him on home schooling for his mental health. He enjoys participating in as many FMH events as he can and is happy to have a Mama Bear that is so involved with the community.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your “reason” for getting involved in advocacy work?

His and other people’s rights and a focus on mental and physical health are important to me. I’ve personally seen the discrimination, harassment, rejection, and other stigma that comes with being LGBTQIA+. It is unacceptable that my child and other folks can be refused housing, employment opportunities, services, and health care all on the sole basis of their sexuality. I want to do everything I can to change that, not just for my child, but for all LGBTQIA+ people.

What makes you proud to be their mama?

EVERYTHING! I think if I have to narrow it down it would probably be his huge heart. Despite everything he has been through, he loves people and is particularly drawn to those that are marginalized in our society.  He also loves being with children, and would like to work with kids with disabilities in some capacity someday.

When did you first hear about Free Mom Hugs and what motivated you to get involved as a volunteer for the organization?

I became aware of FMH through Serendipitydodah for Moms which is a private on-line support group for Moms of LGBTQ+ kids.  Free Mom Hugs Founder, Sara Cunningham, is also a member and the more I learned about what she was doing in the LGBTQ community, the more I wanted to become a part of it. I was offered the Kentucky State Chapter Leader position when FMH went National and I quickly accepted. Little did I know then what I was getting into and how it would affect my life! It’s been a hectic, crazy ride but I wouldn’t change a thing about it!

I’ve found a beautiful network of friends, allies and LGBTQIA+ folks who are some of the most loving, generous, genuine people I’ve ever met. They fill my life with every conceivable emotion. I cry with them and for them. I celebrate their victories, accomplishments, and milestones, and everything in between!  They are family to me and they are more precious than gold.

What excites you most about being involved with FMH? SOOO much!  I love our amazing Kentucky volunteers. They are all such incredibly giving, caring people who are always ready to jump in and do what needs to be done to make our chapter the best it can be. Each person gives in their own unique ways, and I just love working with them, getting to know them, and helping to add MORE volunteers to our chapter. I love working in the LGBTQIA+ community, getting to know everyone and helping them with their needs. Whether it is to be an ear to listen, provide resources, or give hugs.

I also love working with other organizations to learn and grow in friendship with them. Kentucky has an amazing variety of LGBTQ organizations and we all work with each other for the benefit of the community. It has also been astounding to see the growth that has happened in such a short time with FMH, both nationally, and on a state level. Our media exposure has been phenomenal and it’s always exciting to learn about what’s coming up next.

What brings you the most fear? Anti-LGBTQ+ crime, discrimination and legislation. It’s so hard to understand how anyone could have a problem with placing protections for ANY people who are discriminated against. As the saying goes, equal rights doesn’t mean less pie for you. Why would people object to something that doesn’t affect them?  It’s bigotry and prejudice, and it’s wrong. It sickens me that so many people do not know how damaging their words and actions can be to people. Familial rejection, discrimination, anti-LGBTQ hate speech within the church, harassment and bullying in schools (and the lack of appropriate response to it), and the current political climate are all drivers that directly influence the mental and physical health of our LGBTQ!A+ loved ones. Our youth are 4 times more likely to consider suicide than heterosexual youth. The Trevor Project estimates that at least 1.2 MILLION LGBTQ youth aged 13-18 in the United States alone seriously contemplate suicide each year. We can CHANGE that. We can SAVE LIVES through education and advocacy.

What brings you the most joy? As it pertains to FMH, seeing the LGBTQ+ individuals and the community thrive on positivity, love and acceptance as their authentic selves. Seeing more and more allies join the fight for equality.  Knowing in my heart and soul that the work FMH does is a GOOD thing. As a woman of faith, I KNOW that caring for and loving ALL people is the example Jesus set for us. I’ve had many, many instances of being at the right place at the right time on this journey and I truly believe it has been divine intervention all along the way. THAT brings me joy. The knowledge I have in my heart and loving people is the right thing to do no matter what they look like, where they come from, what their sexual orientation or gender identity is, etc.

Tell us about some of the exciting things the chapter in your state is working on.

In our first year, our Kentucky chapter was represented at around 100 different events. The week before COVID-19 shut everything down, we were poised to introduce FMH to the western part of our state through our volunteer orientation program. We had a pretty full calendar of events and were involved with other LGBTQ organizations and had  a major fundraiser in September. We also had plans for much more involvement with GSA’s, youth groups, and kids events and were working on our commitment to increase our involvement politically in Kentucky through our Lobbying Committee. We had so many wonderful ideas and plans but like other chapters, we are still trying to figure out what representing FMH looks like at a time when we aren’t able to do what we do best – physically hug and love on the community. We are all still reeling from the blow that COVID has dealt us, but, in the same breath, we are all navigating, adapting and working on creative ways to show love safely. It is so hard to make plans when everything is unknown.  All that said, we are trying to find ways to continue our expansion of volunteers and figure out how they can best serve the community. We are in a continuing process of development of our Volunteer Orientation Program and hope to have it finalized by early summer. We will be developing a stronger social media presence and will be doing more digital events. We also hope to be able to provide more support as our finances grow, as well as, to try to continue to welcome and promote diversity into our chapter.

Is there anything else we need to know about you and what makes you, you?

I’m just me! I try my best to cover as many bases as I can with FMH while working and commuting around 9-12 hours each day. I also have a family to care for, which includes a child with many health challenges. I enjoy traveling, spending time with my family, music, crafting, cooking and gardening when I have the time.

If you want to volunteer in Kentucky with Robin’s team or at any of our state chapters, email [email protected]

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