two Pulse Survivors have started a conversion therapy organisation

Two survivors of the tragic Pulse nightclub massacre, Luis Ruiz and Angel Colon, have taken a path that is stirring significant controversy. Now self-proclaimed “ex-gays,” Ruiz and Colon have started a conversion therapy organisation called Fearless Identity, aiming to assist LGBTQ+ individuals who “seek the option to change” and parents of LGBTQ+ children who “hope that change is real.”

From Tragedy to Transformation

Ruiz and Colon experienced firsthand the horror of the Pulse nightclub attack on June 12, 2016, which claimed the lives of 49 people and injured over 50 others. The massacre remains the deadliest attack on LGBTQ+ individuals in U.S. history. In the aftermath, both survivors have shifted their focus to what they call the “identity pandemic,” advocating for a controversial and widely denounced practice.

Their organiaation, Fearless Identity, has gained attention from conservative circles. In a recent blog post for Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal organization, Ruiz and Colon shared their journeys with founder and chairman Mat Staver, receiving praise for how they “left the homosexual lifestyle.”

“The enemy had its grip, and now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Christ Jesus. I’ve grown to know His love on a deeper level,” Ruiz said. Reflecting on the loss of two close friends in the attack, he added, “I should have been number 50 but now I have the chance to live in relationship and not religion — not just loving Christ but being in love with Christ and sharing His love.”

Colon and Ruiz said the Pulse massacre inspired them to turn back to religion and denounce their former sexual identities. Now, the two men identify as “children of God” versus straight or gay.

“My life was all over the place, and I never blamed it on being gay. I was a drug addict, an alcoholic,” Colon said. “I missed worshiping God, so when Pulse happened, I took the situation as a big turning point in my life.”

Next month’s event will be the second Freedom March the two men have organized. Their inaugural march was held last May in Washington. While the event “seeks to bring hope of deliverance to the LGBTQ community and point them toward Christ,” per its mission statement, Colon and Ruiz said they believe in accepting people as they are.

“People have the option to change, to choose their own path and their own journey,” Ruiz said. “If there’s a drag queen doing a storytelling hour at a school, we’re not going to say, ‘Kick the drag queen out.’ We’re going to say, ‘Let’s also read the Bible to these kids.’”

The Controversy of Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy,” has been widely condemned by major medical organizations, including the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, World Psychiatric Association, and American Medical Association. The World Health Organization concludes that the practice “lacks medical justification and represents a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people,” linking it to higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, and suicidal ideation.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against its efficacy and safety, Staver and similar conservative figures continue to advocate for conversion therapy. Staver praised Fearless Identity and likened it to “Christian change counseling,” criticizing laws across the United States that ban conversion therapy for minors, which he views as threats to this “important ministry.”

Mixed Messages and Criticism

While Ruiz and Colon have publicly stated they do not condone conversion therapy, their actions and affiliations suggest otherwise. Ruiz told NBC in 2019, “We are not at all advocates for conversion therapy or shock therapy. We stand with the gay community, and our main message is about falling in love with Jesus.” However, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups remain skeptical and critical of their efforts.

Christopher Cuevas, executive director of QLatinx, responded to Ruiz’s claims, emphasizing that while expressions of faith are respected, using religious texts to exploit LGBTQ+ individuals or support conversion therapy is unacceptable. “The expressions of our queer and transgender identities are the embodiment of divinity and grace, because we are living our most radical truth by celebrating and centering our LGBTQ+ identity,” Cuevas said.

A Divisive Path Forward

The work of Ruiz and Colon through Fearless Identity continues to draw condemnation from LGBTQ+ groups and medical professionals. As debates around conversion therapy persist, the story of these Pulse survivors underscores the complex and often painful intersections of faith, identity, and the quest for acceptance.

The legacy of the Pulse massacre and the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and recognition remain pivotal in understanding the broader societal challenges faced by the community. As the controversy around Fearless Identity unfolds, it serves as a stark reminder of the importance of protecting vulnerable populations from harmful practices disguised as support.