Stock image of a woman holding a sign that says "free hugs"

A volunteer at an organization that offers to hug LGBTQ+ people who have been rejected by their families has shared her powerful story after being called a “groomer” by the co-founder of right-wing group Moms for Liberty.

Tiffany Justice, the co-founder of Moms for Liberty, sparked the controversy when she posted about the volunteer on Twitter/X Earlier this month with the insult “groomer.”

“If you offer kids ‘free mommy hugs’ but you’re not their mom, you might be a dog groomer,” she wrote alongside a photo of volunteers at a Pride event.

Moms for Liberty, which has chapters in 48 states, focuses on opposing the mention of LGBTQ+ rights and race in school curricula while advocating for book bans.

Last year, the organization was labeled a far-right group by civil rights advocates at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The targeted volunteer has since spoken to him The lawyer about the experienceShe joked that she couldn’t be a “groomer” because “I don’t even bathe my own dogs at home.”

Seriously, the mother and ally revealed the heartbreaking event that led to her joining the organization Free Mom Hugs: She herself previously held conservative views about LGBTQ+ people, but changed her worldview after her own daughter, who is queer, tried undertook to take his own life.

“I was no longer afraid of the unknown in 2016 when my queer daughter tried to take her own life to escape the pain of not being accepted for who she was,” said the volunteer, who wanted to remain anonymous.

“Luckily she wasn’t successful. Luckily, I have let go of everything I was holding on to before that day, except for my children,” she added. “That fear has now been replaced by the deepest, sweetest joy imaginable.”

Sara Cunningham, the founder of Free Mom Hugs, was “stunned” by Moms for Liberty’s attack, but said the incident actually worked in her favor because the community rallied behind her in the aftermath.

“We don’t like that our beautiful and kind volunteers are being attacked with dangerous misinformation because they support LGBTQ+ youth across the country,” Cunningham continued Facebook. “But we also take it as a compliment that we as an organization pose a threat to their messaging and their agenda.”

Cunningham founded the group in June 2015 after her son came out as gay. She decided to wear a homemade button that read “Free Hugs for Moms” at Oklahoma City Pride, where a young woman came up to her and said it had been four years since her own mother hugged her “because I’m a lesbian.” am”.

Free Mom Hugs grew in popularity after a Facebook post went viral in 2018.

“If you need a mother to attend your same-sex wedding because your birth mother won’t, call me,” Cunningham said. “I’m here, I’ll be your biggest fan. I’ll even bring the bubbles.”

Last November, the Philadelphia Enquirer reported that Phillip Fisher Jr., a pastor and local Republican church leader who volunteered at the Moms for Liberty national summit in the city last year, pleaded guilty in 2012 to a charge of aggravated sexual abuse on a 14th birthday -year-old boy and is registered as a sex offender on both an Illinois State Police list and the U.S. Department of Justice website.

Suicide is preventable. Readers affected by the issues raised in this story are asked to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). ​Readers in the United States are encouraged to contact National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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