KIMBERLY & KAI SHAPPLEY
Kimberly says she was “born a Republican”; who bought wholesale into the church’s teachings that the “lifestyles” of LGBTQ people were a choice and that Satan “had ahold of them.”
But everything changed the day she overheard her four-year-old son— who she had been punishing for insisting that he was a girl since the age of three— praying to die. It shook her to her core and changed her heart. After enrolling in nursing school and learning about gender dysphoria—and that 41% of transgender people attempt suicide—she realized she might lose her precious child if she didn’t change course. It’s been a long, painful journey, but now her transgender daughter Kai is thriving and Kimberly has emerged as a fierce, award-winning advocate for the LGBTQ community.
SARA & PARKER CUNNINGHAM
For months after her son Parker came out as gay, Sara lay in bed weeping, believing he was doomed to eternal damnation—until the day Parker said, “You know, Mom, I had to suck it up for twenty years to be your son. Now I need you to suck it up and be my mom.” That did it. She rallied to embrace her son. The first time she went to Pride, Sara wore a handwritten button offering “free mom hugs” to anyone who wanted or needed a mother’s love. Hearing so many tales of familial rejection broke her heart and galvanized her into action. The next Pride she carried a “Free Mom Hugs” banner, and when Trump was elected, she took her banner on the road in what has become an annual ten-city tour. Recently, Sara’s Facebook post—where she offered to serve as a “stand-in” mom at the weddings of same-sex couples whose biological parents refused to attend—went viral and catapulted the Free Mom Hugs movement into the national spotlight. Sara has inspired moms (and dads) all over the country to “stand in” at LGBTQ weddings.
TENITA LEWIS ARTRY &
TAMMI TERRELL MORRIS
Raised in a strict, Pentecostal church, Tenita loves her daughter fiercely, vowing that she would fight anyone who tried to stand in the way of her happiness—even though Tammi is a lesbian and Tenita firmly believes homosexuality is a sin. As a mom in the early stages of the journey toward acceptance, Tenita is a fascinating study of a mama in flux, one moment stating that marriage should only be between men and women and God didn’t create homosexuals, to minutes later, saying God made Tammi perfect just the way she is. For her part, Tammi’s struggle to accept her sexuality has taken many fascinating (and sometimes devastating) twists and turns, including marrying a man in order to “be worthy of heaven”, and perfectly exemplifies why the mama bears movement is so vitally important to the LGBTQ+ community. We’re not sure where the journey will take Tenita and Tammi, but it’s clear the ground is shifting beneath Tenita’s feet—even as she thinks she’s standing firm.