It was an amazing day just like last year and the previous weekend’s march. It was another scorcher of a day, but that didn’t stop seas of people from attending. The parade was much larger this year so it took a lot longer to walk it. I was especially pumped about the group that marched in front of us. It was a dance team that had several drum players that provided their music. The drums were LOUD! And I LOVED it. I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared this, but I secretly would love to learn how to play the drums. It’s on my bucket list. So to have this group provide some beats for us to march to was awesome.
The only downside to the drums was the fact that it made it hard to hear people calling out for mom hugs. I had my sign again and unlike the march where I marched along with everyone else…I was in the parade and there were spectators on each side of the parade route watching us. People would see my sign and call out asking for a hug. One of our PFLAG moms was gracious in helping me keep track of everyone that was calling out. It was a special time and although it was hot and tough moving so slowly, it allowed for lots of hugging.
I lost count of how many hugs I gave out. It was fun stepping out of line…giving some hugs…and then jogging to catch back up to my group. There were hugs given after the parade as well. But probably the most meaningful hug of the day was one of the first that happened. Mike and I were standing on the corner waiting for the rest of our group to arrive. There were four young girls (I would say 14 or 15 years old) that bounded over to us very excitedly because they saw my sign. They all asked in unison if they could have a mom hug. And when they saw that Mike was wearing a “Free Dad Hugs” button, they asked him for a dad hug. When the third girl hugged me, I kind of felt her exhale. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. She kind of just sunk into me. It was as if she had been carrying a weight and she let it go. We released our hug and I hugged the last girl. When I stepped back from that last hug, I noticed that the 3rd girl was crying. I asked if she was ok and she explained through tears that she felt so accepted.
This simultaneously made me extremely happy and intensely sad. I remembered how she hugged me. I do believe it released a heavy weight in her. And although it made me feel good that she was able to attend Pride so she could experience a place where she could be herself, it reminded me of how much she must struggle at home or in her social circles. I imagine that Pride is a boost for many people giving them the strength to continue on in a world that misunderstands them. And for others I can imagine that it is quite depressing when they get home because it reminds them of what they are missing on a daily basis.
I would like to point something out here. She did not tell me that she felt like her sexuality was accepted at Pride. She said that SHE felt accepted. She wasn’t there celebrating a “lifestyle.” She was there celebrating life. The LGBTQ community gets up everyday. They go to work or school. They come home and eat dinner, maybe watch their favorite show on TV, do their homework if they are in school, go to bed and wake up to do it all over again the next day. Their sexuality is just one piece of who they are just like straight people.
Free mom hugs are just one way to love this community. Stepping into their stories, really listening, and learning from them is another way. Let’s do better at this…let’s do better at loving them.
Because love matters…