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Pulse Survivor: 'Stop Being Shady and Messy, Just Love One Another'

Marcus Godden Pulse survivor by Yannick Delva

ORLANDO — Marcus Godden’s mother didn’t know he had gone out to Orlando’s Pulse nightclub Saturday. She thought he was at home in bed. So when he managed to escape out a side door and jump a fence after Omar Mateen started shooting his semi-automatic rifle inside the packed club, he just wanted to go home. 

By the time Godden got there early Sunday morning, news of the deadly massacre was starting to break on local and national TV stations. But the 26-year-old gay Orlando native says he was just sitting “in the corner of my room, shaking.” He couldn’t bring himself to charge his phone. 

Speaking to The Advocate Monday, Godden said the experience stands out as the worst thing he’s ever gone through. But it also highlighted just how petty some of the feuds within the LGBT community can be. 

“There’s shade among the gay community that needs to be forgiven,” Godden said. “So yes, we as a gay community, we’re affected, but us as a gay community, we need to stick together and turn this whole situation around. And try to love one another. And stop being shady and messy, and love one another.”

He’s still struggling to understand why Mateen chose Pulse as his target, rather than, for example, the larger and more famous LGBT bar Parliament House. He added that he’d seen fights break out at Parliament House in the past, and once witnessed a stabbing. 

When he spoke with The Advocate on Monday, Godden said he hadn’t yet been able to attend any of the makeshift vigils that had taken place in the city. But in a way, those weren’t the setting where he wanted to mourn, he explained.

“What I really would want them to do, honestly, is take that wall down,” he said, gesturing to the police lines, law enforcement trucks, and opaque fencing that was set up around the club as investigators cleared the area.

“Let us do a memory there. Why are people interviewing here, when the lives were taken there? I want to be there. To be like, this is what happened. This is what took place. This is how much blood was shed inside this place because of one person. That needs to be a memory. Club Pulse needs to be a memory. Not here in a Subway parking lot.”

marcus godden by yannick delva
The Advocate's managing editor (and the author of this story) hugs Marcus Godden.

Godden is also uncomfortable with the framing of the massacre as historic — though it is the largest mass shooting in the country to date. 

“I lost gay family, LGBT people behind all of this,” Godden said. “Don’t put that in the history books. That oh, someone who shot and killed gay men and women? That’s not history — that’s a disgrace. That’s sorry.”

Godden confirmed that were “quite a few” transgender women in the club early Sunday morning — though he pushed back on the distinction between identities within the LGBT community. 

“It doesn’t matter,” he says. “L, G, B, T — lesbian, gay, bi, trans. I don’t care who you are. If you are under the homosexual rainbow flag, LGBT symbol, you are part of me.”

Watch The Advocate’s interview with Marcus Godden below. 

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