Tina Rumbley (far left in photo) is a member of Free Mom Hugs Greensboro, a national organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights. Members are known for giving out hugs at parades as well as providing education, temporary financial assistance and emergency housing. Free Mom Hugs will be at the Pride parade this Sunday. Visit freemomhugs.org to learn more or find the Greensboro group on Facebook.

How and why did you get involved with Free Mom Hugs?

My son came out in 2009 and when he came out, I was involved with a conservative mission group and the group was not supportive of the LGBTQ community. I was still closeted even though I was supportive of my son. No one in that community knew that I was supportive. My husband at the time was not supportive; I had to be quiet. Ultimately, I chose divorce and left the evangelical Christian community and chose to dig deep into the word, and realized that the community wasn’t right. I chose to support my son and other LGBT people in the area…. I decided I wasn’t going to be quiet anymore.

I joined a Facebook group for moms with LGBT kids and then I started with Free Mom Hugs in 2016. My first Free Mom Hugs experience was with my gay son and one of his best friends. It was a gentle way to ease me as an introvert into stepping out of my comfort zone!

What was it like when your son first came out to you?

When he first came out, I made it really clear that I loved him but there was a but. Like, ‘How did this line up with the word [of God],’ but my son is an awesome, patient son. He let me ask so many questions and he loved me still. I think that there came a point that if I was gonna have a relationship with my son, I had to accept him for who he was.

People need to listen and stop talking and just listen like I did with my son. We sat down with a bottle of wine countless times and if I did talk, it was to ask questions. I listened and I learned. I think he’s the one that pointed me in the right direction. Every time I hug someone, it’s like I’m telling my son that I love him.

What’s one of your favorite memories working with the organization?

Last year I got to walk a bride down the aisle. One of the other members put a call out on Facebook that said something like, ‘If you need someone to walk you down the aisle, reach out to us,’ and a lot of the LGBT community started reaching out. This couple in the Winston-Salem area reached out — Kelsey and Joanna. Kelsea had no family support, so me and another mom volunteered and she was walked by two moms down the aisle.

Why do you think Free Mom Hugs is important?

Because there are so many people who think how I used to think. The fruit of that is an increase in suicide in the LGBT community.

Some of the hardest things I hear come from young, high school-aged kids. Like, ‘Oh wow, I really appreciate that. My mom says I can’t be gay. She wants me to do conversion therapy.’ Or, ‘My mom says that if I’m gay she’s gonna disown me.’ Some older people will tell me, ‘I didn’t get to come out until I was in my forties and fifties. I wish I had a mom like you.’

My job is to show them they’re not alone and that there are people out there who care. If I can be the one to love them, I’ll love them.

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