Rabid Moms for Liberty activist calls kind mom offering hugs a “groomer”

Free Mom Hugs volunteer holding up a "Free Mom Hugs" sign
Photo: Screenshot

A mother with a queer daughter is speaking out after a hate group co-founder called her a “groomer” for supporting LGBTQ+ youth.

Anti-LGBTQ+ Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice recently posted a photo of a volunteer from the Free Mom Hugs organization, which, among other things, visits Pride events and offers hugs to folks who need them. The photo was from Atlanta’s 2023 Pride Parade and shows the volunteer wearing a rainbow skirt, a Pride flag headband, and a “Free Mom Hugs” t-shirt. She is beaming from ear to ear.

Justice decided to turn the meaningful acts into something sinister.

“If you are offering kids ‘free Mom hugs’ but you aren’t their Mom, you might be a Groomer,” she wrote on X, alongside the photo. The term “Groomer” has been co-opted by the far-right as an anti-LGBTQ+ slur and seeks to equate all LGBTQ+ people with pedophiles.

The volunteer in the photo Justice posted spoke with Advocate and made it clear she would not be intimidated.

“Me, a groomer? I don’t even bathe my own dogs at home,” she joked.

But the tone turned serious as the volunteer – who decided to remain anonymous – spoke about why she does what she does.

“I stopped being afraid of the unknown in 2016 when my queer daughter tried to take her own life to escape the pain that was caused by not being accepted for who she was,” she said. “Thankfully, she was unsuccessful. Thankfully, I let go of everything I held onto prior to that day, except for my kids.”

The volunteer explained that her daughter’s attempt at taking her own life is what fueled her to change her own conservative ideas and become the fierce advocate she is today.

“Most thankfully, that fear has now been replaced with the deepest and sweetest joy anyone can imagine,” she said.

Free Mom Hugs founder Sara Cunningham also spoke with Advocate, saying the team was “taken aback” by Justice’s post but that it ultimately “worked in our favor” as their community stood up to support them.

Cunningham went viral in 2018 when she offered to be a “stand-in mom” for any LGBTQ+ person whose parent wouldn’t attend their wedding.

Cunningham is an ordained minister, and one of her sons is gay. She said that when he came out, she decided to fight “for him and the LGBTQ community like my hair is on fire because I’ve seen the power of what fear and ignorance can do.”

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at The Trans Lifeline (1-877-565-8860) is staffed by trans people and will not contact law enforcement. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for youth via chat, text (678-678), or phone (1-866-488-7386). Help is available at all three resources in English and Spanish.

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