Don’t Hide Your Pride

by Simone Dougherty, LPC

The author attending a pride event wrapped in a rainbow flag.

Which organization do you work with and what do they do?

I volunteer with Free Mom Hugs, which is a national organization whose mission is equality. Free Mom Hugs attends Pride events and offers hugs to members of the LGBTQ+ community. However, we also do presentations, panel discussions, letter writing campaigns, speaking engagements, etc. Behind the scenes we provide support through cards, care packages, texts, emails, and personal contact for disenfranchised members of the community. Members serve as stand-ins at weddings for people whose parents will not attend. And we even write letters in support of organizations that portray members of the community positively.

How did you begin?

I was one of the founding members of The rainbow group at a PHP/IOP program, which provided a safe space for LGBTQ+ folks. I wanted to be more involved in the community but I didn’t have a lot of money or time. So, I found Free Mom Hugs on Facebook. Sending cards with words of encouragement and giving out hugs at Pride events was an easy way for me to start.

Why is it personal for you?

Although I have always been an ally, about a year into my journey my daughter came out as transgender. Two years later, my son came out as gay. While it is one thing to be aware of the many ways the LGBTQ+ community is oppressed and bullied, it is another thing to have to come to terms with the fact that it directly affects someone you love.

How does this relate to areas that you specialize in?

I specialize in working with members of the LGBTQ+ community. And I enjoy working with families of LGBTQ+ folks to help them embrace and affirm their family members. I have worked with a significant number of transgender individuals during various times in their journeys, including helping folks understand their gender identity. And I have also worked with same sex couples, and people exploring their sexuality and various relationship dynamics such as polyamory. I am sensitive to the ways in which the LGBTQ+ community is marginalized and continues to be threatened, which has a direct impact on the mental health of members of the community.

What are some ways others can become allies?

This year, Free Mom Hugs’ theme is “Don’t Hide Your Pride.” Being a visible ally to the community is one of the best ways to show your support. In addition, ask for and use the name and pronouns that individuals specify they prefer. Also learn and continue to learn terminology used by the community as it is ever changing. Learn about the history of pride, and understand the ways in which the community, particularly the LGBTQ+ BIPOC community, continues to be marginalized. Finally, go to events, donate, and vote!

What message do you want to leave us with?

Human beings are unique, wonderful and diverse and that is what makes us strong. Every human being deserves equal rights. Every human being deserves to be celebrated.

Love is Love! Love Wins!

Simone is an out-of-state provider at Therapy for Women, specializing in anxiety, depression, parenthood, LGBTQ+ mental health, and substance use. To learn more about Simone or find out if she serves your state, read her bio here.

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