Just as Orange County, Fla., — home of Orlando — debates whether to formally ban "conversion therapy" on minors, a group of Christians and LGBTQ people hosted a rally supporting "deliverance to the LGBTQ community."
About 100 people were in attendance, reports the Orlando Sentinel, noting many attendees wore "Changed" shirts at the event at Lake Eola Park in Orlando. Many at the rally were members of the Changed Movement, a group of individuals who have ostensibly "chosen identity in Christ above that of LGBTQ+."
The event, which featured speakers and gospel singing, was officially hosted by Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz, two survivors of the 2016 mass shooting at the gay Orlando nightclub Pulse. Colon and Ruiz claim to be no longer LGBTQ. However, they say their ministry, Fearless Identity, does not promote conversion therapy, a discredited practice where gay, bi, and trans people attempt to become straight or cisgender.
"I want to make a public declaration: This is not conversion therapy, this is not electrotherapy, this is not shock therapy," Ruiz said at the rally. "This is all the Holy Spirit, this is the man that died on the cross. This man never cheated on me, never slept with my best friend. He’s the man on the cross."
Another speaker, Devon Johnson of Miami, told the crowd, "I was looking for attention, affirmation, acceptance, and in the homosexual community, it’s more about sex."
Days before the rally, Orlando city commissioner Patty Sheehan filmed a video with the anti-conversion therapy group Truth Wins Out. Sheehan, the first openly gay politician in central Florida, described the traumatizing experience of enduring "ex-gay" therapy at age 18. Sheehan described being set up on dates with gay men and an exorcism where she was told the demon of homosexuality would leave her body in an orange mucus.
"It took me a long time to be able to heal from the, I would say abusive things I was told about who I could be as a woman and how I could…positively express my sexuality," Sheehan told Truth Wins Out. "Do not as a young person do what I did. It took me years, a lot of substance and alcohol abuse and personal suffering and bad relationships for me to be able to self-accept. A lot of it because what I was told was wrong with me when I was around these religious people."
Watch the video below.