A Canadian mom is rallying a group of parents to offer free hugs in preparation for Pride.
Cindy Grant is working overtime to encourage parents and members of the community to offer free hugs to anyone and everyone during St. John’s, Nfld. Pride parade on July 14.
Through the creation of the Facebook group Free Mom/Dad Hugs NL, Grant hopes to organize mothers, fathers and allies to offer a warm embrace during Pride as a sign of support to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The decision to form her own group came after Grant’s daughter, 21-year-old Jade Hoysradt, came out to her during her senior year of high school.
In an interview with the CBC, Grant says she had long suspected that her daughter was gay, and feared that she was living in fear of being accepted. Hoystradt recalls knowing she was a lesbian in grade 7, but kept it to herself out of fear.
Ahead of Hoysradt’s graduation, Grant decided to broach the subject with her daughter.
“I was absolutely thrilled and delighted that she could be who she was, and not have to be in fear of it," Grant said. "It amazes me how many loved ones are being separated from their families and are being disowned when they're coming out."
Hoystradt, a firefighter in Churchill Falls, Nfld. says her mother’s reaction was “life changing,” but is well aware that not everyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ is met with the same reaction from their family and peers.
According to The Trevor Project, an organization that offers aid to LGBTQ+ youth in crisis, people who come from homophobic, transphobic or rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to attempt suicide compared to those from accepting homes. In Canada, approximately 30 per cent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+.
“Unfortunately, there are so many people out there who don't have that support," Hoysradt said. "Everyone needs a hug at some point. Everyone needs to be accepted."
By offering hugs during Pride, Grant hopes to raise awareness for LGBTQ+ community members who face rejection and homelessness when they embrace their true identities.
Grant’s Facebook group says the day will be filled with “a bunch of moms, dads, nans and pops, brothers, sisters or anyone in general who are offering free hugs.”
Similar offerings of mom/dad hugs have gone viral, including a Facebook post from Howie Dittman who attended the Pittsburgh Pride parade on June 9.
In a post, shared more than 200,000 times, Dittman calls on more people to show compassion to marginalized communities and love one another.
“Imagine that your child feels SO LOST FROM YOU that they sink into the arms of a complete stranger and sob endlessly just because that stranger is wearing a shirt offering hugs from a dad. Think of the depths of their pain. Try to imagine how deep those cuts must be,” Dittman wrote. “Please don't be the parent of a child that has to shoulder that burden. I met WAY too many of them, of all ages, today.And if by chance anyone knows these folks, please let them know they can reach out any time they need a surrogate dad to talk to. I'll be there.”
With a few weeks left until St. John’s parade, Hoystradt says she’s proud of her mother for organizing her own Free Hugs group.
“It's honestly so amazing that this has taken off, and that I can say that my mother is behind it, and that she is wanting to go there and give other people hugs and show her support for this event," Hoysradt said. "I can't say it enough how much I love her."