Luis Zavier Ruiz and Angel Colon (Pic: Facebook)
Two survivors of the Pulse massacre who are hosting an anti-LGBTQ Christian march have been told that they are damaging their former community.
Angel Colon, 29, and Luis Javier Ruiz, 36, are among two of the 53 people injured in the devastating 2016 LGBTQ nightclub attack that saw 49 people murdered by gunman Omar Mateen.
While they identified as gay at the time, they have since “renounced” their sexuality and former lives after turning to Jesus.
Colon and Ruiz are helping to organise another “Freedom March” next month at Lake Eloa Park in Orlando, a short distance from the club where the mass killing took place.
They have also founded an organisation called Fearless Identity Inc., which Colon told NBC News is about “trying to share our stories through ministry and share the testimonies of people who’ve come out of the homosexual lifestyle.”
The Freedom March events, which are held in different cities, are focused on “celebrating freedom from homosexual/transgender lifestyles by the grace and power of Jesus Christ.”
While they claim to be bringing the church and LGBTQ people together, activists and members of the LGBTQ community are appaled at Colon and Ruiz’s actions.
Survivors of conversion therapy in the US, under the banner of the Conversion Therapy Dropout Network, have expressed their dismay at the planned rally, especially as it is being held so close to the Pulse nightclub.
“We are even further disturbed that two survivors of the Pulse Nightclub massacre, Luis Javier Ruiz and Angel Colon, are directly involved in this march and are claiming that Jesus has turned them from their sinful lifestyle,” said the group.
“These statements are harmful to the work we do and harmful to all those who have been permanently scarred by conversion therapy and specifically the thought that being queer can and should be changed.”
The organisation continued: “There is no doubt that Ruiz and Colon have experienced extreme trauma during the Pulse massacre. However, going to the opposite extreme and professing the same rhetoric that severely impacts their community is an insult to those lost in the massacre.
“We cannot imagine how utterly terrifying it must have been at Pulse that night. But please do not add more harm to the community. Please, reach out to us and speak with the survivors of the rhetoric you are spreading.”
Critics argue that so-called “ex-gay” or ex-transgender” individuals who “pray the gay away” are in denial about their sexuality or gender identity and have to repress their true nature under the belief that being LGBTQ is abnormal or immoral. It’s often shown to be unstainable and many leaders of this “movement” have returned to their LGBTQ identity.
The World Psychiatric Association and many other mental health bodies have asserted that trying to “cure” or change LGBTQ people, known as conversion therapy, doesn’t work and is both dangerous and unethical.