ORLANDO, Fla. – Organizers with the One Orlando Alliance held a faith-based panel on Monday outside Dr. Phillip’s Center for the Performing Arts.
The event is the first of several this week, leading up to Saturday, which marks five years since the shooting.
Leaders of churches and members of the LGBTQ community spoke out about their struggle to find an identity in the religious community.
Angela Sanchez was a performer at Pulse. She said up until the shooting, she attended church regularly. However, in the immediate time that followed, she said she struggled to feel accepted as a transgender female.
“While waiting to be rescued, the first responders did a great job in rescuing us. But in that time, my faith helped me for those three hours that felt like a lifetime,” Sanchez said.
Daniel Downer was on the panel and said that he struggled to find a place in his Baptist upbringing. He said he eventually converted to Islam
“While I was going through conversion therapy, like really questioning a higher power,” Downer said.
Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan said that despite people wanting to point fingers at who was to blame for the Pulse tragedy, all religions and sexualities must work together.
“Our community was not divided. We United to support each other. Some tried to get us to denounce the Muslim community because the gunman was Muslim. But we knew hating a person [because] they were Muslim, was the same thing as hating someone because they are gay,” Sheehan said.
Several more events are scheduled to take place in front of the Dr. Phillips Center, including a live stream of the remembrance ceremony at Pulse Saturday evening.