There’s no doubt that exposure to the three hours of absolute terror that was 2016’s Pulse nightclub massacre can cause lifelong trauma that can bring all facets of one’s identity into scrutiny. At the time, the night of July 12, 2016, saw the deadliest mass shooting in US history. So it’s not surprising that two survivors of the night have become figureheads of the “ex-gay” movement, encouraging LGBT+ people to reject their identities.
Earlier this year, a survivor of the Pulse shooting Luis Javier Ruiz announced that he was no longer gay and that an “epiphany” has suppressed his attraction to other men. Ruiz is joined by trainer Angel Colon, made famous when he regained strength to dance again after being shot in the leg three times.
Ruiz and Colon joined forces to found ‘Fearless Identity’, an “ex-gay” ministry with the mission of bringing “hope and understanding to the LGBTQ community and the church through education, biblical clarity, and support in a judgement-free environment for those seeking the option to change”.
The pair are now involved with the organisation of a ‘Freedom March’ ten-minutes away from the Pulse nightclub. Ruiz was one of few people to attend Washington DC’s ‘Freedom March’ last year, where former LGBT+ people expressed their salvation to Jesus Christ and encouraged LGBT+ people to follow their journeys.
In an interview with Julie Roys for a conservative Christian podcast, Ruiz and Colon expressed how their near-death experiences at Orlando facilitated their turn to God: “It’s not a gay to straight thing. It’s a lost to saved thing.
“Pulse was the vehicle that God is just using to let people know that, that was grace,” Ruiz added. “I should have been number 50. We should have been number 50, 51. But because of his grace, we are standing here today. And we are alive, and we are breathing to share the message of Jesus. Perfect love casts out fear.”
This almost-celebratory portrayal of Pulse as a way to salvation can be a dangerous view. Still, Orlando’s ‘Freedom March’ is set to take place on September 14, with a rally in Lake Eola Park, ten minutes from Pulse nightclub.
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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