The Lines That Join Us: Part I

People remembering loss and celebrating survival through their unique tattoos created in response to the Pulse tragedy

The Lines That Join Us is a storytelling project and exhibit collecting the stories of people who have chosen to get tattoos in response to the Pulse tragedy that unfolded on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, FL. The Orlando Public Library displayed this collection of portraits by Carrie Moran in its main gallery space from October to November 2017.

Each portrait is accompanied by a brief narrative, and this collection will introduce you to the stories of Denise Colon, Angel Colon, Eileen Barral, Micaela Iphys, and JP Cortes, five of the many who have chosen to honor the 49 and greater LGBTQIA+ community in this way.

Micaela Iphys by Carrie MoranOrlando Public Library

Micaela Iphys

In addition to her Pulse tattoo, Micaela has a tattoo of a stopwatch and butterfly. The stopwatch is set at 20 seconds, in reference to a quote from the movie We Bought a Zoo, "All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, and anything is possible."

Micaela consistently displays that courage, such as when she had to quit her K-12 teaching job in order to safely transition. She uses her tattoos as an opportunity to engage people in conversation about trans rights, and regularly comes out as trans to complete strangers.

She came out as trans to her family on Transgender Remembrance Day in November 2015. She remembers the time between coming out and Pulse as being in a happy bubble, which burst shortly after she heard the news about Pulse. It was a wake-up call for her, and also a call to action.

In the days after Pulse, Micaela counter-protested the Westboro Baptist Church, where met a lesbian couple. They didn’t exchange names, but the three-minute conversation stuck out to her as making her feel a part of the Orlando community.

Shortly after, when she attended the vigil at Magic Kingdom proudly waving her trans flag, a trans man told her he was thrilled to see his community represented.

Micaela and this man did not exchange names either, but when she found a spot at the Lake Eola vigil, she looked to her left and saw that lesbian couple, then looked to her right and saw that trans man. She had "felt like a number in this city, but Pulse really showed how connected we all are."

Denise Colon, Angel Colon & Eileen Barral by Carrie MoranOrlando Public Library

Denise Colon, Angel Colon & Eileen Barral

Angel Colon’s story has been shared worldwide. He is the epitome of a survivor, but even after being shot six times, going through multiple surgeries, and going to physical therapy regularly, it’s almost impossible to get him to do anything but smile.

As Angel says, he always wants to "share my message of love, hope, and positivity because that’s the only way you can move forward." He also makes it clear that he couldn’t do it without the support of his family.
Angel’s sisters Denise Colon and Eileen Barral have been by Angel's side through his recovery process.

Denise wanted to get a tattoo as soon as possible, but she waited until the right design came to her.
She’s intentional about the meaning of her tattoo, a sea turtle with her brother’s initials, the date of the attack, and the number 49 in Roman numerals.

"Sea turtles have longevity of life, they’re wise, they take their wisdom one day at a time, they learn things a day at a time and then they take that as a lesson and they incorporate it into their own lives.
Sea turtles also take a strong hit, they take it in & keep on going as if nothing happened. I see that in my brother."

"All positive. He has hope and is very optimistic for the future."
Angel responded to this decision with his typical modesty and smile. He said, "It was beautiful when she said that to me. I was touched, it means a lot."

"It’s something special, and the meaning of that is amazing. I feel like all of us should have that meaning of the turtle.
Be optimistic and be positive all the time because it’s the only way forward."

JP Cortes by Carrie MoranOrlando Public Library

JP Cortes

JP was best friends with Drew Leinonen and his boyfriend Juan Guerrero, two of the 49.
He can’t remember exactly when he met Drew, but he thinks it was at a friend’s Halloween party many years ago.

JP’s tattoo has two Pokemon characters: Larvitar, Juan’s favorite character, and Meowth, which JP chose to represent Drew because, "It’s the only Pokemon that can talk and it’s sarcastic."

This sense of humor is indicative of both the relationship JP had with Drew, and the way he’s responded to the tragedy.
JP has worked Drew’s mother Christine and several of Drew’s other friends on a charity they started called "The Dru Project."

The charity supports the creation of a curriculum for gay-straight alliance clubs in high schools, and offer scholarships to students who embody Drew’s passion for inclusivity and acceptance.
Drew started a gay-straight alliance club in his high school at a time when it wasn’t necessarily safe to do so.

As JP said, "I was baffled that when he was that young he felt comfortable enough to say fuck it, whatever."
Like many others, JP expressed his appreciation for the positive opportunities and awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues that came in the wake of the tragedy.

He is dedicated to keeping the memory of his friend alive, while also making a difference in high schools around the United States.

For more stories, please visit Part II of this exhibition.

Credits: Story

Carrie Moran, 2017.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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