Pulse mass shooting took the lives of 49 people and injured a further 53 when a gunman opened fire in the Orlando LGBT+ nightclub Pulse on the night of July 12, 2016. It was the deadliest mass shooting the US had ever seen, and therefore it is understandable that survivors of the event were deeply traumatised.
Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz survived the Pulse shooting and claimed that the terrible event inspired them to return to Christianity and renounce their homosexuality. They have described themselves as “overcomers of homosexuality” and have founded an organisation together called ‘Fearless Identity’ in the hopes of helping other “ex-gays”.
The pair further spread this message at their ‘Freedom March’ which they organised alongside the ‘Florida Family Policy Council’, a local anti-LGBT+ group. The event was held just a mile and a half away from the site of the Pulse massacre on Saturday, September 14.
At the march, which according to the Orlando Sentinel drew in more than 100 attendees, Ruiz urged parents to pray for the salvation of their LGBT+ children while other speakers recalled their own experiences with one man claiming God had “set him free” of his same-sex attraction.
The common theme with speakers, however, was the intertwining of sexuality and trauma and thus the rejection of same-sex attraction based on this. Where in the case of Colon and Ruiz it was the shooting which spurred this renouncing of one’s sexuality, for others it was life events such as bullying or child sexual assault which lead to a warped view of sexuality.
Though outspoken in his beliefs, Ruiz wished to distance himself from ‘conversion therapy’, which the state of Florida is currently considering to ban completely, declaring to the crowd; “This is not conversion therapy, this is not electrotherapy, this is not shock therapy. This is all the Holy Spirit this is the man that died on the cross. This man never cheated on me, never slept with my best friend. He’s the man on the cross.”
Orlando’s LGBT+ community, still grieving and healing from the 2016 shooting have condemned the event organised by Colon and Ruiz. Furthermore, Christopher Cuevas of QLatinx, a Latino; GBT+ advocacy group based in Orlando, spoke out about the march and called it “an attempt to wash the community in a thicket of hate and bigotry”.
He told NBC News via email that although the group honours freedom of expressions of faith, they “cannot condone the gross misuse of religious text and faith to exploit LGBTQ+ people or support conversion therapy.”
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