That’s a Wrap on The Virtual Tour 2020!
How do we possibly describe what the Free Mom Hugs Virtual Tour meant to us? We know what we hoped it would mean to you. It was such a disappointment at so much being cancelled and with so many unknowns in the air. We knew no matter what, we wanted to connect and make sure you didn’t feel alone. And we knew that the mission of Free Mom Hugs had to go on!
Free Mom Hugs empowers the world to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community through visibility, education and conversation.
What we didn’t expect was that it would be YOU, not us, keeping the mission of Free Mom Hugs alive. That for one week, you stole our hearts, you embraced us, you educated us, and you empowered us!
You were brave and visible. You were vulnerable and told your stories. You answered hard questions, and questioned old answers. Your truth cracked us all wide open. And now we know more than ever, that the mission of Free Mom Hugs is to create a world that no longer needs Free Mom Hugs!
As our friend Allie Shinn, from Freedom Oklahoma said, “I imagine a world where you don’t have to be brave to be who you are. You just get to be who you are.”
Our Beautiful, Spirit Filled Community
We hope you were able to experience the beauty that is our Transgender Community. We heard from Pastor Gwen Fry, who has traveled the journey of maintaining her faith, while becoming her authentic self. And, Alanna Kennedy, our extraordinary volunteer from North Carolina, who told us plainly, “I had to become my authentic self, or die.” And now she devotes her time to being that safe place for those coming to grips with that same decision. We also heard from Spencer Shoup, who you may recall, wrote a beautiful letter to Sara that she read in one of her infamous Snail Mail videos. Spencer shared from his heart the pain he feels from his parents (my life-givers) who have rejected him, but he has found connection in Sara and his Free Mom Hugs family.
We were so lucky to have been graced by the presence of some spectacular drag queens, who just like the rest of our LGBTQIA+ community, have stories to share of rejection, loss and heartache, and graced us with their courage to become the beautiful, outspoken, generous citizens they are. Purina Chow shared this spirit when she said, “I’m here to help anyone raise money. I’ll take the love people give me and spread it around.”
Boots on the Ground
It was a beautiful week being able to spotlight our incredible Chapter Leaders. We affectionately refer to them as our “boots on the ground” and we hope you all were able to get a glimpse of how true that is. And it was those devoted leaders who then nominated heroes in their communities to showcase. We were able to bring attention to other organizations doing amazing work as well. As our friend from PFLAG Columbus, Jaron Terry described, “we are all on the same baseball team, just playing different positions.”
Each day, we were thrilled to welcome you into our homes and all be a connected, chosen family. Stories were not only shared, but valued for the treasure they are. Our conversation with Mama Bears Documentary Director Daresha Kyi, https://www.dareshakyi.com/mamabears encouraged us all to remember, “You have been told stories since you were in the womb… storytelling is in you. You are the best person to tell your story. And someone out there needs to hear it.”
Stories give us all a sense of belonging. And during the Virtual Tour, we all had a universal feeling of belonging. Pastor of Everybody Church, Ray Waters said it beautifully when he reminded us that it is an amazing thing when people feel like they belong, after they have been told their whole life that they don’t.
Good People Everywhere
And if you didn’t already know the fierceness of our Mama Bears, we hope you caught a glimpse of the power they exude. We heard from mothers of transgender children, Kimberly Shappley and Cristina Spencer, who allowed us into their world to understand, even just for a moment, their unique circumstances that every one of us need to grasp better. Cristina shared her own realization about her transgender son, that “the majority of geography is not safe for him.” And after a heartbreaking experience at The Supreme Court, she told herself she needed to find the good people who will help make this country safe for her son. And that’s when Sara Cunningham and Free Mom Hugs popped up in her Facebook feed.
We also heard from activist and Free Mom Hugs Kentucky volunteer, Faith Evans. An immigrant, woman of color, who embodies resilience, and explained to us that as long as there is anybody that is persecuted, they deserve and need for people to step up and recognize their humanity. “We are all humans. We are all worthy of love and dignity.”
Moving From Being Allies to Accomplices
The Reverend Anna Golladay, who lost her job as a Methodist minister for performing a same-sex wedding, presented us with the template for being an ally. Echoing the words of friend Stan Mitchell, Anna talked about the need to stand so close to the LGBTQIA+ community that you, as an ally, are getting hit by the stones thrown at them. And she challenged us to step beyond allyship to become an accomplice, who will actually stand in front of those being harmed.
Liz Dyer of Serendipitydodah-Home of the Mama Bears, http://serendipitydodah.wordpress.com shared a similar sentiment regarding the harming of the LGBTQIA+ community and her belief that it’s the job of parents and allies to be taking the harmful words of those who hate in order to help the community heal. Even if that’s from the parents of LGBTQIA+ kids themselves.
Sarah Pearce, Mama Bear from our Pennsylvania Chapter, and seen on HBO’s We’re Here series, spoke right to the heart of our mission when she said, “I’m giving the hugs until your family can get to the point that they can too.”
And speaking of parents, our panel with John Pavlovitz and Stan Mitchell did not disappoint. John cut right to the heart of the matter when he spoke of his no holds barred approach stating, “Some need a hug around the neck. And some need a kick in the behind!” Stan Mitchell addressed those parents still struggling with the conflict between their faith and their child and reminded them that “Our human conscience is not the voice of God. Our conscience is our best attempt to discern the voice of God…but it does not make a person right.” Followed by his wisdom in saying that we must look at church history and admit we have been majorly wrong many times. And will most likely be wrong again. Stan recently said, “I got to the bottom of the slippery slope and landed in the arms of God. She was a Mama Bear who gave Free Mom Hugs.”
Each night was such a joy to be with you. We were graced with our Special Guest of guests, Jamie Lee Curtis, who as you know, has fallen in love with the mission of Free Mom Hugs, and is now making a movie based on Founder Sara Cunningham’s memoir How We Sleep at Night. https://www.amazon.com/How-We-Sleep-At-Night/dp/1499725388
We ended each evening with a powerful message from the president of The Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David. Empowering us to be active in the legislative process that surrounds our LGBTQIA+ children by recognizing the “fierce, unstoppable advocacy and actions of parents and allies like you, who will help build a more just and loving world.”
Thank you for all you have done to make not only our first Free Mom Hugs Virtual Tour a success, but all you continue to do to make the world a kinder, safer place for ALL. If you would like to continue to help us go Beyond the Hug, please visit our website for resources, chapters to join, ways to donate, and our merchandise.
Until we can hug again… we will see you online!