Luis Javier Ruiz — one of the survivors of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people — recently announced in a public Facebook post that he no longer identifies as gay. The hashtags on Ruiz’s Facebook post promoted the upcoming May 5 Freedom March, a Washington, D.C., rally organized by Voice of the Voiceless (VOTV), an anti-gay Christian group promoting the idea that LGBTQ people can be turned straight. In return, VOTV is using the ex-gay Pulse survivor to promote its work.
Ruiz’s post reads:
I should [have been] number 50. Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse a memory were my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV my struggles were real! 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 in a deeper level.
In this picture two of out of 49 — my close friend on right and in back of me — are no longer with us. They lost their life that night. I should’ve 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. I know who I am and I am not defined with who the enemy says I used to be but who Christ Jesus says I am.
Feel free to share the message. #PulseLives #freedomMarch #May5 #WashingtonDC Freedom March #Jesus #lifestyleChrisitanity #identityInJesus #Share
I should of been of number 50Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse a memory were my struggles of…
We shouldn’t mock the ex-gay Pulse survivor, but we should challenge his thinking
While we might be inclined to mock Luis Javier Ruiz, it’s important to recognize that his turn to religion and “pray the gay away” ex-gay conversion therapy is possibly informed by a religious Latinx cultural upbringing and the trauma he faced as a survivor of one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. He also links his being HIV-positive to the common stereotype of a “promiscuous” “perversion” — evidence of ongoing trauma he feels over that.
Groups like Voice of the Voiceless reach out to traumatized LGBTQ people with promises of a new life through ex-gay conversion therapy even though it’s a harmful, pseudo-scientific form of psychological abuse that has been disavowed by the American Psychoanalytic Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and so many other religious and medical groups that support a nationwide ban on the practice.
Groups like Voice of the Voiceless try to position support of ex-gay therapy as a form of religious freedom and free speech, stating that the media and “one-sided” educational and mental health organizations have been “hijacked” by activists who abuse and shame “former homosexuals and those who experience unwanted same-sex attraction.”
But as Hawaii will become the 12th state to ban ex-gay conversion therapy this week, let’s quickly clear the air about the Voice of the Voiceless organization’s distortions.
Here is a mini-documentary about a man who went through ex-gay therapy:
First, these bans do not prohibit religious texts, ex-gay testimonials or religious discussions in the offices of state-licensed psychological counselors, as ex-gay advocates claim. They merely levy penalties on any such counselor who claims they can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Second, ex-gay clinics have classically used a variety of harmful methods, including rape, molestation, beatings, forced medications, electroshock therapy, solitary confinement and other forms of torture. And every major psychological association agrees that trying to change sexual orientation and gender identity can seriously harm the person trying to change.
That is, ex-gay therapy is a form of queerphobic violence.
Lastly, these state bans have mostly focused on banning ex-gay therapy for minors — that is, people under the age of 18 — meaning that adults like Ruiz are free to try and change their sexuality if they choose.
While that may provide a traumatized person like Luis Javier Ruiz a bright light in a dark time of his life, it’s unfortunate that this ex-gay Pulse survivor is now using religion and his survival of the massacre to help promote psychological abuse to others who might also be struggling to accept themselves in a world full of violence against queer people.