The Greater Boston area is home to many exceptional nonprofits, but the ones that serve moms are especially close to our hearts. Boston Moms is excited to spotlight and support the local nonprofit organizations that make our area so great.
This month we are showcasing Free Mom Hugs!
Free Mom Hugs empowers everyone to embrace the LGBTQIA+ community through visibility, education, and conversation — while also giving fantastic hugs!
We had the pleasure of speaking with the Massachusetts/New Hampshire chapter leaders, Kristen Tanzer Teixeira and Valerie Messina, about their mission and upcoming events in the Boston area.
What is the name of your organization? Free Mom Hugs
Where is it located? We are a national organization with chapters in all 50 states. Our chapter covers Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
What is your mission? A hug sends a powerful message of acceptance and love, and we are building a better world one hug at a time! We work to empower everyone to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community through visibility, education, conversation, AND HUGGING!
Tell us the backstory of your organization? The founder of Free Mom Hugs is a woman named Sara Cunningham. She is from Oklahoma and was fairly religious. Her son came out to her as gay, and she wrestled with her faith and reconciling this. She went to a Pride parade and wore a button that said Free Mom Hugs and was so overwhelmed with the response and the way it made her feel and the connection she created that day with the LGBTQIA+ community. So she decided to focus on making sure members of the community felt loved and accepted. You can read more about her HERE!
What kind of events do you go to, and how do they work? We go to Pride events, and we support any event we can within the LGBTQ community. More often than not, we gather and go through the crowd offering hugs and high-fives and fist bumps. We like to connect with people, and if they’re comfortable they can share their stories. We also remind them that there are resources available to them if they need help.
Why is getting a hug, fist bump, kind word, or high five from a mom so important to the LGBTQIA+ community? When someone has come out, they are often rejected by their family because of religious or philosophical differences, among other things. And they are lacking that family support from a parent. They feel isolated and pushed away. This is often manifested in literal loss of contact with their family, so receiving a hug from someone can really make them feel loved and accepted. Sometimes the wounds are deep and people are not comfortable hugging, so that’s why we also offer high-fives and fist bumps and even a smile or a kind word. It’s an important acknowledgment that they are seen and accepted and loved by someone simply because they are here on this earth! A small act of kindness can have a huge impact.
What events do you have coming up? We are right in the middle of Pride season, and we have lots of events coming up all over Massachusetts and New Hampshire — Pride parades, festivals, and gatherings of all sorts. You can check out the events we’re attending on our Facebook page.
How do you sign up? Signing up is super easy! There is a national registry where we ask volunteers to register. You can find the links at the top of every chapter’s Facebook page. Once you register, all you need to do is join in on an event. Check the chapter events page on Facebook and join if you can! This is the best way you can support Free Mom Hugs!
Is there a financial commitment? There is no financial commitment. Because Free Mom Hugs is a national nonprofit, we do ask folks to buy their shirts and swag through the national website. That money goes to Free Mom Hugs to continue our work in the community.
Is it OK to bring our kids with us? Absolutely! I have brought my children with me on numerous occasions to participate.
If you could say one thing to a mom struggling to accept that their child is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, what would you say? Sexuality, gender identity, and how they perceive themselves is NO reason to lose connection with your child. It’s simply not worth it to push them away. Having a child is a GIFT, and if you push them away you will miss out on so much — and so will they.
Find it within yourself to learn and grow and come to understand your child as best you can. Use the resources available to you — we have plenty at Free Mom Hugs.
If your child was brave enough to come out to you, whether they are 12, 25, or 40, hug them. Love them unconditionally. Accept them for exactly who they are. You don’t need to ask anything, you don’t need to fix anything, you don’t need to say anything other than “I love you because you are my child.“ And then DO that.
Where can we donate? Donations can be done directly through freemomhugs.org. Your donation provides the necessary funds for vital programs that are empowering entire communities and making a difference.
Looking for more articles about Boston moms celebrating Pride? Try these! “Pride Guide,” “Celebrating Pride with Young Children,” “ISO Allies,” “Rainbow Cake,” “Naya Rivera,” and “The Invisible Bisexual Mom.”