A Simple Gesture forces LGBTQ Families to Introspect

by - April 04, 2020

What does it feel like to be rejected by your own family, simply because your beliefs are different from theirs? To be isolated and cut off? Painful as it is to say, the truth is there are millions around suffering this heartbreaking pain even today, unable to even cry in front of a cynical world as they walk alone. One father understood and decided to make a difference.

Howie Dittman attended the Pittsburgh Pride Parade in June 2019, an event organized to support the LGBTQ population around. It was a event where people walked around, laughing, dancing and celebrating. But there were more emotions hidden behind the smiles, as Dittman realized before the day was over.

lgbtq rainbow flag


Dittman attended along with a local volunteer group consisting of friends, all dressed up in shirts that simply read 'Free Dad Hugs' and 'Free Mum Hugs'.

The message was simple - "We know some of you have been rejected by your families for being gay or transgender. We understand. We are here for you. Come to us." They expected to get a few smiles and hugs. Nobody anticipated the reaction that followed.

People from the Pride approached them and broke down in tears as they hugged Dittman, holding on tight. One man spoke of having been kicked out the house by his parents when he told them he was gay, the family refusing to answer his calls ever since.

“I felt a tiny bit of that pain that he carries with him every minute of every day. He was abandoned because of who he loves.”



Another woman's tearful hug gutted Dittman who was left wondering how much she had suffered because of being abandoned by her family and how she must have yearned for just one phone call from her parents. By the end of the day, he and his friends had given 'free dad hugs' to over 500 emotional men and women of all ages at the parade/

In Dittman's own words -

Imagine that, parents. Imagine that your child feels SO LOST FROM YOU that they sink into the arms of a complete stranger and sob endlessly just because that stranger is wearing a shirt offering hugs from a dad. Think of the depths of their pain. Try to imagine how deep those cuts must be.”




Dittman's post on Facebook  about what he witnessed and the anguish he felt in these hearts went viral and has (as of April 2020) 374,000 likes with 265,000 shares. It opened up the floodgates with thousands relating their story of being abandoned and how they are coping with the pain in silence.

Dittman's simple gesture of offering a hug - something you and I take for granted around the ones we love - broke the hidden wall and brought the conversation into the public, forcing parents to reevaluate their stand while, most importantly, allowing the LGBTQ crowd to realize that they were not alone - that there were are people around who care for them and love them for who they are.


Heroes of Kindness:

Since 2017, every year, I take up the #BlogchatterA2Z & #AtoZChallenge and focus on showcasing lovely real-life heroes from around the worldThe aim is to remind you that there is still plenty of good human beings all around you... to inspire you to smile once more.
You can follow my 2020 Edition of Heroes of Kindness here.

Want more stories of compassion? I have Hundreds of 'Heroes of Kindness' to brighten your day here:

2017 edition (Articles - 40, Heroes - 67)
2018 edition (Articles - 34, Heroes - 52)
2019 edition (Articles - 31, Heroes - 42)


Heroes of Kindness - Indian edition
Heroes of Kindness - My Interviews



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20 comments

  1. Real life heroes make the world a better place.Love this series Roshan

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    1. Thanks. Right now, real life heroes are the only ones I see. Hardly any leaders worth emulating

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  2. This is the best example of how a simple gesture by one person can mean so much to another. This made my heart smile!

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    1. I know. It is something that should be done at all parades.

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  3. Oh my god! This is so heart warming! :)

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  4. Such a small act but it is sooo high on impact! So heartwarming to read about Howie's initiative!!

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    1. True... the impact has been extended far beyond the parade itself

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  5. It is indeed a great gesture from Dittman and it is heartless to abandon your kith and kin because of something as natural as sexual orientation. After all LGBTQ's were created by nature just the way they are and it is cruel to punish or isolate people for simple what they are.

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    1. Here in India, so many million suffer in silence even today. They don't have the guts to tell anyone in the family, simply because they know how horrible the reactions would be.

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  6. It is heartbreaking when your family fails to understand you and chooses to stick to their believes rather than to try and accept you. A mere hug can do wonders, its effect is paramount. Much praise to the ones who went out there to support the ousted community.

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    1. I know... we need groups to actually do this actively in our nation.

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  7. It is difficult for any child to deal with abandondment from one's parents more so if you are LGBTQ. A friend of mine who found out that her son was gay, actually organised his "wedding" and told us all about it because as she said, she didn't want to lose her son. And this woman is from a traditional Indian family. It is equally hard for the parents.

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    1. That is actually amazing from your friend... so rare in our country. I can imagine it isn't what they dreamed of as parents but acceptance and love is always the answer

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  8. Jadu ki zappi! Human touch, acceptance by embracing is one of the basic needs of the human being to feel secure and wanted. Kudos to Dittman for coming up with such an idea.

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    1. I really regret that our jadu ki jappi concept from the movie did not become a bigger thing. People underestimate the power of a hug

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  9. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I love coming back here Roshan. You're inspiring millions here by writing stories of real people. Stories of love and kindness. Where do you find them?

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    1. A lot of hunting, I will say that much. While others spend time finding dirt on the politicians they hate and saving on their phones for future debates, I find kind people and save to write about them later

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  10. This left me teary-eyed. Why can`t we love people for who they are?

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    1. This country is way too far gone for that... I don't know how we will find our way back... till then, each step taken - like Howie Dittman's - makes a difference.

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So what do you think ?