Pulse Survivor: Angel

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Anthony: Where in Philly did you grow up?

Angel: I grew up all over the place. Originally I grew up in the Fairmount section. But then around 9 years old, my mom moved to Northeast Philly. So we lived near the Franklin mills mall for a while. Then I lived in Orlando for three years between ‘04 and ‘07. Then in ‘07 I moved back to Philadelphia on my own because I kinda like hated it here. Things just weren’t working out for me. When I moved back to Philly, that is when I felt like I became an adult. I was on my own. I was doing my own thing. I finally got my own place. I felt independent. Philly is where I actually came “out”. Because for a while I was hiding who I was. I was ashamed, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to be the way I am. Especially growing up in a church setting. So for a while, I hated myself. I was just very depressed. But finally, I decided to start accepting myself, when I finally realized that I am not going to change…that’s when I became my own person. That’s how I became who I am today. Yes, Philadelphia is home but it also has a special place in my heart because the community accepted me for who I am. I never felt that kind of acceptance before. So, yes Philadelphia isn’t perfect. There are issues within the community but at the same time, I am grateful for the people whom I met and the experiences that I had there because it’s molded me into what I have become today. So hopefully I am not a terrible person. [LoL]

Anthony: How do you like it here in Orlando the second time around?

Angel: Second time around, not so bad. I came to this city feeling very optimistic about the possibilities. I have a new attitude about what to expect when coming to Orlando. Because my first experience in Orlando wasn’t great, which is why I left. But I am a different person than I was in 2007. When I lived here I wasn’t “out”. I worked. I went home. I would play video games and that was pretty much my life. So coming here this time around, I started off by making friends. One friend I stayed in communication with, Jeff, who was with me that night at Pulse. So I reached out to him and we kinda picked up where things left off. So he showed me around downtown, took me to some clubs, and introduced me to some of his friends. I was determined to enjoy the experience of living in Orlando this time around. I like Orlando. Even with everything that has happened. I like Orlando.

Anthony: I recently had a working lunch with someone from Melbourne, Australia and they showed me pictures of a massive vigil they had for Pulse. There were like 200,000 people there. How does that feel to get that kind of support from the world?

Angel: It’s amazing. On Facebook and Instagram, I have received messages from people from all over. People from Spain, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, so it’s just incredible the amount of support that I have seen from around the world. Of course, within the United States, I have received messages from people from everywhere; the Midwest, the west coast, from home. You know, it’s been amazing. I’m hoping that with all the attention this event has caused, hopefully, people will start to think about their actions, think about what is it that they say against the community, think about how they treat people within our community. Now people understand that we more visual now, people are more aware but it doesn’t change the fact that there are people who hate us for who we are and like that night, want to attack us for being who we are. So I am hopeful that all the support out there will result in positive change.

Anthony: Do you regret moving to Orlando?

Angel: Believe it or not, no. Even after what happened, I don’t regret moving to Orlando. I am not one of those to say “Everything happens for a reason.” Because I don’t think everything happens for a reason. I do believe that some things happen for a reason. What happened at Pulse, I don’t necessarily think there was any good reason for that to happen, I really don’t. But the fact is that it did happen and as result, I am a different person today than who I was on June 11th. So I have to try to make the best of my life going forward.

Angel Santiago Jr., Orlando

Interviewed by: Anthony Leon

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