“Can you imagine your mom not giving you a hug?”
That was the question that inspired a group of Tri-Cities mothers to contact the Vancouver Pride Society for permission to offer free “mom hugs” at this year’s annual Pride Parade.
Heather Anne Hooton, founder and executive director of the Tri-Cities Moms (TCMG), said when the idea was put to the 8,500-member group, the response was immediate. TCMG is dedicated to raising funds and promoting initiatives that assist local children and families in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody.
The moms and some family members plan to set up at the end of the Pride Parade route near Sunset Beach and offer a hug to whoever needs one. The group will be recognizable by the “Free Mom Hugs” T-shirts they’ll be wearing. The T-shirts were designed by Candace Grewal, owner of Vancouver-based Ella Grey, an online boutique that supports local moms and Cystic Fibrosis Canada.
Hooton said the group, which includes same-sex moms, was already trying to find ways to be even more inclusive so when this idea came up, many of the member moms immediately got on board. She added it hit home when a member told her that when some of her friends told their parents they were members of the LGBTQ2SI+ community they were disowned.
“Can you imagine your mom not hugging you because of your lifestyle and how devastating that would be?” asked Hooton. “I have two little girls who I love so much, so I’d love to be there for other people.”
The moms are also concerned about the increase in hate crimes towards LGBTQ2SI+ members of Greater Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, including the theft of Pride flags, the vandalizing of rainbow crosswalks, anti-SOGI rhetoric and homophobic and transphobic speakers who are allowed to speak publically. SOGI stands for the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities 123 curriculum being taught in B.C. schools. Disturbed by these acts of hate, members of TCMG want to show the LGBTQ2SI+ community that they have many mom allies supporting them by way of a hug.
“Because, who doesn’t want a good mom hug?” said Hooton, who will be handing out hugs alongside her daughters Reilly, 10, and Sophie, six.
Andrea Arnot, executive director for the Vancouver Pride Society, said she’s aware of the success of similar initiatives in other cities across North America, including at the recent World Pride Parade in New York City, so welcomes the idea for here at home.
“It went over really well and parade participants really appreciated it,” said Arnot.
Arnot said that even in 2019, there is often still a stigma attached to youth coming out to their parents, friends and family. She added many young members of the LGBTQ2SI+ community have struggled with rejection from their biological families.
“So this is a really lovely thing to do, to offer that love and support,” said Arnot. “It adds to their personal experience.”
Arnot said a lot of people taking part in the Vancouver Pride Parade are newly out and upon finishing the march will be experiencing an “emotional high.”
“It will be nice after that to have a really meaningful hug,” said Arnot. “It will really add to their experience.”
The Vancouver Pride Parade takes place Sunday, Aug. 4 from 11 to 6 p.m. For a complete schedule of Pride Week in Vancouver, visit vancouverpride.ca. Members of TCMG will also be offering free mom hugs at the New Westminster Pride Street Festival on Saturday, Aug. 17.