ORLANDO, Fla. — Two Pulse nightclub shooting survivors co-hosted a rally for formerly gay and transgender Christians at Lake Eola on Saturday afternoon.
Joshua Perez spent the day with the Freedom Marchers, a group of people who identify as formerly gay or transgender.
“It changed my life because I had a sense of community,” said Joshua Perez. “In a lot of ways, the world and society likes to minimize stories like ours.”
Perez said he had not met anyone like him before watching Luis Rivera’s interview after the Pulse nightclub shooting, where he said he no longer identified as gay.
Jeffrey McCall, the Freedom March’s founder, felt it was appropriate that Rivera co-host the Orlando rally.
“Just like there were other Pulse survivors that go and share their stories doing things, this is Angel and Luis' story and it's not anyone else's story to tell. It's their story to tell,” McCall said.
Still, there has been pushback from people who said Pulse victims were targeted because of their sexual identity. They call Freedom Marchers’ efforts to encourage other LGBTQ members to follow them "conversion therapy."
"Conversion therapy" is a scientifically discredited practice people called on Orange County to ban earlier this week.
"A few miles up the road, I was subjected by my parents and by a therapist to some of the most horrific treatments you could imagine," said Sam Brinton, of the Trevor Project, an organization focused on preventing suicide among LGBTQ people.
Freedom March supporters forcefully deny that charge.
“We never went through electroshock therapy, never had people force us to watch straight sexual things,” Perez said. “What we had was a love encounter with Jesus Christ and that’s what transformed our lives.”
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