Dan Blevins provides assist to LGBTQ {couples} by way of Stand in Pleasure

Sarah Declouette was crushed late final yr to study that her mother had determined to not attend her wedding ceremony to her girlfriend of two years, Lori Avitia.

“I’ve been brazenly homosexual since I used to be 15, so it actually harm to seek out out she didn’t need to share this comfortable second in my life,” mentioned Declouette, 35, of Ventura, Calif.

Within the uncooked emotion of that second, Declouette recorded her ideas in a video, which she posted on TikTok.

“My fiancée has like 100 folks in her household which can be going to be there — her dad and her mother and her stepmom — and like on my aspect, I’m not going to have anyone,” she mentioned tearfully within the video.

The video attracted practically 2 million views, and greater than 55,000 folks left feedback of encouragement and assist.

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Daniel Blevins, founding father of the assist group Stand in Pride, noticed the video and straight away determined to supply himself up as a stand-in guardian on the wedding ceremony.

“I used to be actually touched by her video, and Sarah and I rapidly constructed a powerful connection on-line and over the telephone,” mentioned Blevins, 46. “I knew that I needed to be there for her on her wedding ceremony day.”

So Blevins, a homosexual father of two from Tennessee, flew into Ventura this week to face in for Declouette’s mother and father at her wedding ceremony Saturday.

“For each unsupportive particular person, there are tons of of others with a number of love to present,” Blevins mentioned.

Again in 2021, after seeing folks submit tales just like Declouette’s on social media, Blevins provided on TikTok to be a stand-in parent for anybody who lived close to him and was in want at their LGBTQ+ wedding ceremony. If he couldn’t make it, he mentioned, he had a community of associates who may be capable to.

He mentioned he was impressed to submit his video after he discovered about Free Mom Hugs, a bunch began in 2019 by Sara Cunningham, an Oklahoma Metropolis lady who had provided to be a stand-in mother at homosexual nuptials.

Proper after he posted, he was flooded with messages from strangers who additionally provided to be stand-in mother and father at homosexual weddings of their space.

“I had such a superb response that I knew this was one thing that was wanted,” mentioned Blevins, including that it didn’t work out logistically for him to right away attend weddings as a stand-in guardian, however that he was capable of join tons of of different individuals who might make it work. “Folks saved telling me that they needed to do the identical factor,” he mentioned.

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Blevins mentioned he felt relieved that his message resonated with tons of of people that had raised their fingers to assist. He determined that if he couldn’t attend the entire weddings himself, the following smartest thing was to assist different folks go.

“I work full time and dwell in Tennessee, and many of the invites got here from out of city,” mentioned Blevins, a hair salon proprietor from Knoxville. “So I made a decision to give you a solution to join folks across the nation.”

He formalized his effort and began Stand in Pleasure, by way of which LGBTQ+ folks can discover somebody of their space who would really like to be a stand-in guardian for them, together with throughout milestones corresponding to graduations and weddings.

Stand in Pleasure now has volunteers throughout the nation who assist to run 5 Facebook regional support groups in america, and there are greater than 100,000 members worldwide from 70 nations, he mentioned. Blevins estimates his teams have linked hundreds of people that have volunteered to be position fashions and stand-in mother and father since he began the initiative two years in the past.

Declouette mentioned that having Blevins fill in at her wedding ceremony, which she deliberate for Pride Month, might be each vital and significant.

“I’m so comfortable to lastly meet him — I’m going to deal with him identical to he’s my dad,” she mentioned. “It’s good to know that somebody like Dan has my again. Having his assist will make all of the distinction.”

For Blevins, Saturday might be simply his second expertise as a stand-in guardian.

He mentioned he additionally actually danced down the aisle with Kesha Serna at her wedding ceremony to Bernadette Serna final summer season after he discovered that Kesha’s father had died and her mom wouldn’t be coming to the ceremony.

“Kesha despatched me a message on social media, and once I came upon she lived solely two hours away, I instructed her, ‘I’ll be there,’” he mentioned.

“While you attain out to a stranger on the web, you don’t have any concept what you’re entering into, however I had the sense that Daniel actually cared and needed to be there for me,” mentioned Kesha, 37.

“What Daniel is doing is so vital — he’s reaching out to individuals who have no person there for them and he’s inspiring hundreds of individuals to step up,” she added. “He’s displaying everybody that that is about loving your neighbor and being there to your neighbor.”

About 45 percent of LGBTQ+ younger folks thought of suicide prior to now yr, in line with a 2022 survey from the Trevor Project, a company that gives assist and assist to LGBTQ+ youth.

“It’s devastating — I personally have identified individuals who have taken their very own lives,” Kesha mentioned. “I used to be fortunate to attach with Daniel. There are folks on the market with no person.”

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Rob Brown, a father of 4 from the Nashville space, is amongst those that determined to grow to be a stand-in guardian after listening to about Blevins’s trigger.

Brown posted an introduction on the Stand in Pride Southeast Fb web page and provided to fill in as a dad to anybody who wanted one for any motive, he mentioned.

“I’ve a bit of catchphrase that I’ve used for years: ‘I don’t care who you might be, I don’t care what you might be, I don’t care why you might be. I simply care that you’re,’” mentioned Brown, a 48-year-old warehouse employee.

“I’ve achieved free dad hugs at a number of Pleasure parades over time, so this appeared like one thing I might do,” he added. “It’s extremely unhappy to me that so many individuals within the queer group don’t have familial assist.”

Landon Forrest lives 25 miles away in Nashville, and mentioned he rapidly responded to Brown’s Fb provide when he noticed it in 2022. Forrest, 37, mentioned he started the method of transitioning from feminine to male in January 2020.

“I’ve actually missed having a constructive father determine to look as much as,” he mentioned, noting that his organic father died seven years in the past and wasn’t concerned in his life when he was rising up.

When Forrest lately had stomach surgical procedure, Brown was the one who took him to the hospital and picked him up, he mentioned.

“We’ve since gone to dinner and films, and we’ve frolicked simply hanging out and speaking,” Forrest mentioned. “It’s been such an important assist to speak to him in regards to the elements of being male and having him there as a task mannequin. It means every little thing.”

Blevins mentioned he finds hope in tales about profitable bonds between individuals who had been as soon as strangers.

“Some folks need any individual there for his or her weddings or school graduations, whereas others are simply in search of a buddy,” he mentioned. “One connection at a time, it’s nice to know that so many individuals are keen to face up in satisfaction and be there for each other.”

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