null: nullpx

"The site of the Orlando shooting wasn’t just a gay nightclub. It was my safe haven."

Daniel Leon-Davis grew up near the scene of the Orlando shooting and says Pulse "was where I learned to love myself as a gay man."
12 Jun 2016 – 05:55 PM EDT
The scene outside the Pulse club where a gunman shot and killed 50 people in Orlando on June 12

I grew up just ten minutes away from Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando where a gunman shot and killed more than 50 people early Sunday morning. Before coming out, I actually drove past it often, but I never really understood the role it would eventually play in my life.

Growing up in a black and brown community where hyper-masculinity was acted out as a form of survival, I actually grew up hating on Pulse. In my community, like in so many others around the world, my identity as a gay man was viewed as a form of weakness. So much so that even when I came out, I refused to go to gay clubs because it meant that I would be one of “those gay men.”

It wasn’t until one of my last days in high school that my friends and I all decided to go together.

I’m never going to forget that night....

Daniel Leon-Davis is the Senior Creative Director at SOZE, and social media director for Russell Simmons.