Susan Cottrell, FreedHearts

Changing the human conversation of love and inclusion. Susan Cottrell is the Mom of two LGBTQ children; the founder of FreedHearts; an international speaker with a viral TEDx talk; a pastor and theologian; an acclaimed author; and a fierce advocate and ally. In her unique tender, relatable style, Susan is a prominent voice of unconditional love and lavish inclusion. Powerful, authentic, and relevant in today’s society, Susan has a lot to say. The Advocate calls her their “Favorite Affirming Matriarch.” OutSmart magazine calls her "The Mother of all MamaBears!" Reverend Ashley Harness from Auburn Seminary says, “Susan has this fierce, loving, don’t mess with me, Mom vibe.”

If you have been excluded, or if someone close to you has been excluded because of who they are or who they love - or maybe you have been the one doing the excluding - the FreedHearts podcast is for you. Join Susan, along with her husband Rob, on the journey. You are not alone. Welcome home!

All Episodes

In their ongoing pursuit of "religious freedom," people step over the bodies of LGBTQ+ youth literally stranded on the street! They turn a blind eye to horrible injustice all around them. Why?? In order to maintain their ideal of pretending they are fighting 'sin.' And pretending that they live a righteous life. We're calling BS on this being about religious liberty. Really, it’s just personal preference. And we want to be part of not letting them get away with it anymore.In this episode we talk about how religious liberties are actually not even Biblical. Support the show (

Nov 17

26 min 54 sec

Gaslighting is an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control, where victims are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about themselves. They may end up doubting their memory, their perception, and even their sanity! So, how does this show up towards those in the LGBTQ+ community?An important episode.Support the show (

Nov 10

30 min 11 sec

In this episode, we pay another visit to the FreedHearts Podcast Inbox!We answer questions from our listeners like…  “How can someone be transgender when God doesn’t make mistakes?”  “Why do you say the LGBTQ issue is a dealbreaker in church?”  “If I deconstruct my faith, can I still keep some things I believe in?”  “Can I love and follow Jesus and not be a Christian?”  and “Why do you have to be so irreverent?”  Wait, what??  Are we?  Yeah, well… maybe a little. But, actually, that's okay. :-) Let’s talk about all of this. Support the show (

Nov 3

33 min 50 sec

“A Love Letter to My Non-Affirming Christian Friend” This is a very special episode.It is specifically meant to be shared with anyone who is not fully accepting and affirming their lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender child or loved one.It is an honest, but loving letter from our heart to yours. <3 Support the show (

Oct 27

7 min 38 sec

Homophobia in the church is so overt, so common, that if you say, "I’m a Christian." – you have to quickly add “But I affirm LGBTQ!” because it’s just assumed you’re homophobic! What happened?? How do people still in the nonaffirming church not see it?  How did the Christian church become so unlike Christ, and why is Jesus the biggest threat to Christianity?Support the show (

Oct 13

31 min 25 sec

When you look at non-affirming Christians, and you look at Jesus, they often seem as far apart as they could get. There are so many things that many Christians are doing and believing that are so unlike the Jesus they claim to follow. But they slap Jesus’ name on it like a stamp of approval. Honestly, Jesus has to be shaking his head saying, "Oh my gosh! Please—stop!" So what are those differences? It’s time for a Christian gut-check!Support the show (

Oct 6

25 min 20 sec

“What if you're wrong about LGBTQ+?” I've been asked many times. And in this episode I will give you my answer. I am also asked, “How do you know for sure if you are right or wrong?”  If you are out there and you are wondering… We have an easy test for you.Non-affirming people trample over others in a quest to be right. But, if you’re going to say you follow Jesus, you’d better be characterized by lavish, overriding love. And, if you’re not… what if YOU’RE wrong? Let’s talk about all of that, and how to know for sure. It’s easy. Support the show (

Sep 29

25 min 23 sec

Have you heard this? “Okay, okay, you’re gay, but you just can’t act on it.”This is a common thing out there: “What about gays just not having sex?” Let’s be honest, this is a copout to make non-affirming Christians feel better – but it only adds to an LGBTQ person’s mental health load because it conveys a message that something is wrong, something is broken, less than ideal. It is cruel, unkind and unloving.There’s a lot to unpack here, so, let’s do this. Support the show (

Sep 22

31 min 27 sec

Conversion Therapy / the Ex-Gay Movement – the awful effort to try to get LGBTQ+ people to somehow not be gay anymore! You’ve heard of it, maybe you've experienced it. Today we are going to talk about two things: First… the big lie – the fraud – the scam – the false message of conversation therapy. And second… the dangerous, dirty little secret they don't want you to know about. The secret that many people do not know about, but it is critical to understand. Conversion therapy is deadly and it’s time for the truth. Let’s do this. Support the show (

Sep 15

27 min 37 sec

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin??“ We're Calling Bullsh*t!!"Love the sinner, hate the sin??" Wait, what?? It sure doesn't feel like love to those on the receiving end. You know why? It’s not! It’s homophobia disguised as love.Is it from the Bible or any religious text? Nope.In this episode, we are going to dive into this and set the record straight!Support the show (

Sep 8

31 min 24 sec

Can we talk about Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles standing up for her mental health, and how this relates to people in the LGBTQ community? Let’s talk about self-care, self-advocacy, and being shredded by armchair critics who have lost their humanity.These people do not deserve a voice in your head, or any space in your beautiful heart.Support the show (

Sep 1

31 min 18 sec

Today is a very powerful, important episode. We talk about how to deal with abusive people. How do we love people who are tough to love? Is a toxic relationship worth fighting for? Is it unloving to step away from abusive people?How can we get what we need? And so many of you are not getting what you need from your faith communities and even your families, which is really, really hard. We need love and encouragement, as we are for who we are. Unconditionally. It’s what you deserve. Really. And we hope this episode helps you get that. Support the show (

Jun 30

32 min 24 sec

Paul has been pulled from context, and misused to shame, reject, condemn and bring great harm to those in the LGBTQ+ community, and people who support them.In this episode we discuss whether Paul is about legalism, law and bondage? Or is he about love, life and freedom? Or does it all depend?We will take a closer look at the perils of Paul, and the particularly puzzling place of Paul as paramount… instead of Jesus.  Peculiar! Perplexing!  :-) Support the show (

Jun 23

38 min 8 sec

Being the Dad of an LGBTQ Child! This is a very special episode for Dads of LGBTQ kids - or about your Dad, or about the Dad of someone you love. Today, I talk about the core issues unique to being the Father of an LGBTQ child. I’ll give some tools you can use to understand your kids, deepen your relationships, strengthen your faith, and deal with non-affirming friends, family and those at church. Dads, it’s just me and you today. Bring your fears, bring your hearts, and let’s talk.Support the show (

Jun 16

27 min 46 sec

What About Anti-Gay Religious Leaders? The Pope, evangelicals, denominations...  What about anti-gay religious leaders? With such deeply-held beliefs and traditions, how do we respond? How do we free our hearts from the impact of these religious leaders, who come from flawed oppressive systems, speaking to us about moral issues? How can we change the influence they have in our lives?

Jun 9

34 min 18 sec

The Deconstruction Journey: What About Sin?  Have you been told you are in sin? Called a sinner? When you question this – you are often immediately labeled a heretic or an apostate or maybe someone who was never really a Christian to begin with.  All of that attack and defensiveness instead of just having an open conversation.  But when you question these – when you open your box, all heaven breaks loose and you start to deconstruct your faith and reconstruct a spirituality that is deeper and richer and more satisfying.Support the show (

Jun 2

28 min

Love That Feels Like Love!What does it mean to love? We’re told to love, and many people will treat others horribly and claim they are loving. Many of you have been on the receiving end of terrible treatment and then been told that they are loving you. You know what? That just does not work and today we are going to talk about how to recognize it and what to do. Support the show (

May 26

24 min 56 sec

“Dealing with Dysfunctional Family Rejection”If you are part of the LGBTQ community - or an affirming parent - and you are experiencing rejection from family, we are so sorry. It has nothing to do with you. It reveals everything about them and nothing whatsoever about you. And you certainly don’t deserve it.In this episode, we talk about how you can respond to non-affirming, dysfunctional family. Important counsel on how to protect yourself and your heart. 

May 19

26 min 44 sec

Continuing our conversation about broken family relationships, today we talk about what it is costing our LGBTQ kids. What is the cost when parents have broken with them? What does it cost your child when you withhold love or limit the relationship, simply because you are not okay, for whatever reason, with them being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? Mom, Dad… they are paying a price much greater than we can ever imagine. Today, we talk about all of this and what we, as parents, can do.Support the show (

May 12

32 min 12 sec

This is a very special episode for parents wanting to improve your relationship with your LGBTQ child. If you are not a parent, this would be a great episode to send TO your parents. :-) Mom & Dad, maybe you are struggling to understand your child. They may have told you they’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or other words that may not make sense to you.  Your faith community is telling you to reject them, to not accept them as they are. And you know, in your heart, that something is just not right with that.Today, we talk about broken family relationships, what the cost is to us as parents, and what we can do next. Support the show (

May 5

34 min 12 sec

We are very fortunate to have a unique relationship, and we think we have a lot to offer about on how to have a great relationship. But, we had to work to get here. We went through some hardships that threatened everything, but we were always committed to wholeness. We always sought love and healing, even when it was hard.Many of you have great relationships too. Many of you don’t. Today we want to share some of our keys and hope that is has something to offer to you, wherever you are.Support the show (

Apr 28

39 min 23 sec

Okay, let’s talk about sex! Did you know that term “unnatural sex” that we read about in the Bible is any sex that's not procreative?! One theme emerged that shifted our view of the nonaffirming church and drove our deconstruction. That theme is the motivation to protect the institution even as it diminishes and even destroys the people within. So today, we’ll look at patriarchy and misogyny, and how harmful and endemic they are.

Apr 21

26 min 48 sec

Abuse is basically someone in power using, misusing those without power. Whether it’s emotional, spiritual, physical, or sexual. It’s someone with more power abusing someone with less power. Is your church spiritually abusive? Today, we give you ways to know for sure. To discover this can be troubling, depressing. But it is so beautifully freeing. Support the show (

Apr 14

32 min 15 sec

What Does it Really Mean to Deconstruct My Faith?When you leave your previous understanding of your faith, it may feel as if you lost your entire identity because of how tightly you held those beliefs. In this episode, we talk about what it really means to deconstruct your faith. What affirms our deconstruction is realizing that God is in all the places we were told not to go. Support the show (

Apr 7

28 min 4 sec

Do you wish you could get away from that internalized voice of disapproval and shame? This is one of the hardest issues to face for LGBTQ+ people on their path to acceptance, and for families and loved ones — especially those with a faith background. Today, we talk about the enemy within: internalized queerphobia. Support the show (

Mar 31

28 min 15 sec

What a time it is! I’ve had to pull myself back from living in a constant state of fight or flight. How about you? Fight or flight is meant to be a temporary state, a brilliant way to protect us from that proverbial tiger. But that should be a very small portion of our lives. If we find ourselves stuck in fight or flight - what’s the alternative? What is the ideal state look like?Support the show (

Mar 24

28 min 35 sec

This episode is for parents of LGBTQ children; or LGBTQ people with parents; or those allies and friends who know parents. In other words, this is for you!In our work with tens of thousands of parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer children, there are 5 questions that almost always come up. Things they are concerned about; things they wonder and worry about. In this episode, we answer those questions! We help set hearts free to fully affirm and accept; to love and be loved. 

Mar 17

29 min 3 sec

It’s common in today’s non-affirming church teaching to talk about the Bible as “the inerrant, unchanged word of God,” meaning, if you even question what you’ve been taught about the Bible or what it says, you are labeled a heretic!But, as we have discovered on our own deconstruction journey, there are a lot of problems with that!In this episode, we talk about what to do with the Bible in the midst of a deconstructing faith.Support the show (

Mar 10

28 min 14 sec

I went to seminary as an evangelical. I had no idea it was going to hold so many surprises. Here are the top 7 shockers that change the entire game of Christianity. Knowing these will help us continue to unravel the hurtful, destructive teachings that, in truth, really have nothing to do with Jesus, God or the Bible. It was the beginning of the deconstruction of my faith, and the beginning of a much deeper, more beautiful, more satisfying faith and spirituality.Support the show (

Mar 3

33 min 18 sec

The teaching of contempt, the teach of “us vs them,” has seeped into our culture and thinking. There’s no magic answer to fix it, and it has taken root in our lives, in society. So, what can we do? In this powerful episode, we discover how to recognize and deal with contempt in our lives - that we are receiving and that we are giving. This episode is about beginning to truly see ourselves and each other. Support the show (

Feb 24

32 min 49 sec

If you could write a love letter to your past self - to little Susie Q or little Bobby - what would you say?  And if you could write a love letter to your future self - in 10, 20, 30 years - what would you say?In this episode, we talk about the thread of love running through your life, what may be hindering that, and how we can free our hearts to love and be loved - as we deserve. The most important love you will give or receive is the love you give to, and receive from yourself. Support the show (

Feb 17

31 min 19 sec

How often do you find yourself responding to the same old questions and hurtful comments from non-affirming people?In this episode, we discuss why you should never waste your time, never waste your heart debating with, or explaining yourself to someone who is committed to misunderstanding you. It can be toxic!You don't deserve it, and we'll talk about how we can respond instead. Support the show (

Feb 10

31 min 44 sec

By the time Susan turned 24, both her parents and three brothers had died! She had been relentlessly bullied; and was married and divorced.This personal, intimate episode is for those of us who have experienced pain and heart-breaking loss, and how to turn that into heart-freeing love.Susan opens up and shares her heart and her incredible story in this special episode.  Support the show (

Feb 3

37 min 1 sec

So much pain has been inflicted in the name of God. We have been deeply hurt, we get triggered and we want nothing to do with Jesus. But what has been used to hurt us has been absolute lies and is not really about God or Jesus!One of the worst things that ever happened to Jesus was the religion of Christianity, and non-affirming Christianity has largely gotten him wrong. Jesus is still one of the best-kept secrets because his truth has been grossly distorted by people who claim to speak for him.There is a religion-free Jesus who belongs to all of us. This episode will help set our hearts free. 

Jan 27

38 min 32 sec

In this beautiful, intimate episode, Susan talks openly about her decision to have her breasts and ovaries removed as part of her battle with cancer, and how it impacted her femininity. "I learned the power of loving my body. I learned how much I took my body for granted and how much more I wanted to love it. We have tied our femininity so much to our body -- our shape, our size, our sexiness -- a lot about how others see us. And it's so much more than that. It's about confidence, which really is self-love." - SusanSupport the show (

Jan 13

35 min 5 sec

In a beautiful, very special holiday episode, we share three stories - one from Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple; one from Sandra Cisneros; and a unique retelling of the Biblical story for us outliers, the rest of us. I hope these unwrap the way we see and celebrate this Christmas holiday season.  It is about reconstructing Christmas in the midst of a deconstructing faith. Celebrating for the rest of us. Support the show (

Dec 2020

27 min 1 sec

Why do parents struggle with loving their LGBTQ children?  The false teachings and faulty arguments that lead parents to reject their LGBTQ children. Why do LGBTQ struggle with internalized homophobia, with loving themselves? The false teachings and faulty arguments that lead LGBTQ people to reject themselves. Important information; and a tender, powerful message on how to respond to those who use these false teachings to hurt us. An episode to help set your heart free!

Dec 2020

33 min 57 sec

Our first visit to the FreedHearts Podcast Inbox! In this special episode we answer questions we have received from our listeners. I am pretty sure you have heard them, or even asked them yourself!Questions about supporting an LGBTQ person who is in the middle of a very non-affirming environment; talking to anti-gay pastors and church leaders; the difference between a welcoming and a truly affirming church; microaggressions; when is it time to leave a church; dealing with internalized homophobia; and more. Support the show (

Dec 2020

37 min 44 sec

“My child is walking away from God!” “I know I don’t believe what I used to but I don’t know what I believe now!”“How can I believe in God at all anymore?”What happens when your faith starts to change? Deconstructing our faith is letting go of any part of whatever you believe that does NOT tell you that you are absolutely, unconditionally acceptance, included, loved and beloved.It can be scary and feel overwhelming.  But it is one of the most beautiful things you will ever do. What remains is real and pure and celebrates who you are, without condition. 

Dec 2020

25 min 35 sec

Have you been uninvited to a holiday or family gathering?  Is that kind of event the last place you would want to be because of things that are said or just because of how you are made to feel?  Let’s talk about how to navigate difficult family situations, and also about options for when you can’t, or don’t want to go home for the holidays. Support the show (

Nov 2020

29 min 31 sec

How do we deal with infuriating family fanatics?  When we are afraid, angry, and even hurt, how do we love people we don’t even like that much? What does that mean, and what does it not mean? Support the show (

Nov 2020

33 min 43 sec

What a time it has been! We have been through a lot, almost like going through a war together. Many of us are exhausted! And for a lot of you, all of this is in addition to the daily rejection and hurt we receive from family and friends - just because you are LGBTQ.  Now is the perfect time for self care. Now is the perfect time for a love letter… to ourselves.  Support the show (

Nov 2020

30 min

Even the most optimistic people, this year is doing a number on us. It seems as if every day something else is happening – wildfires, floods, protests, politics, racial tension, and deaths and suffering on so many levels from COVID.Our emotional and mental health is fragile. We just can’t seem to get our footing. And it just keeps piling up.We are stressed, afraid, angry. The present is overwhelming and unbelievably painful and difficult for so so many. The future is uncertain. In this episode, we talk about how fear is impacting us, and especially about something we can do that is powerful and profoundly simple. Support the show (

Oct 2020

24 min 3 sec

There has been so much hurt justified “in the name of love.” We all think we’re loving, so why do so many people feel unloved? What is love, really? The answer may surprise you. We will give you the definition of love in 14 beautiful, powerful words.Support the show (

Oct 2020

30 min 3 sec

In this episode, we talk about one of the two deadliest teachings in all of humanity. It is at the heart of our division. It is responsible for some of history’s most brutal treatment of ethnic groups, religious groups, women, LGBTQ; and it is rampant today. What is it and what can we do? Support the show (

Oct 2020

28 min 3 sec

We have gone from being leaders in the evangelical church to fully affirming parents of two LGBTQ children, as well as fierce advocates and allies. Our faith evolved without asking our permission. What can you expect on a journey that asks you to deconstruct your faith? How does that impact our core beliefs and our community?Support the show (

Oct 2020

32 min 34 sec

Our first daughter came out more than 10 years ago. We started FreedHearts in 2013 and have reached millions of parents and LGBTQ. After all this time, why a podcast and why now? Who are we, why we are doing a podcast, and who is this podcast for? Our focus is to change the human conversation on love and inclusion - so what does that mean? Support the show (

Sep 2020

35 min 28 sec