The world mourns for Orlando

Stephen Carlstrom with gay pride flag at Pride 2015Stephen Carlstrom

Pride ’15

Being a theatre kid my entire life, I’m no stranger whatsoever to the gay community. When I was a senior in high school I grew confident and comfortable enough to reveal the truth I had been hiding for years: I was gay. My coming out story is nothing dramatic, and when people ask, I tell them my situation could not be better.

I even have a pride tattoo, 6 simple dots on my ribs representing the pride flag. I attended Pride 2015, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality nationwide. It was nothing short of one of the best days of my life. I plan to go to Pride 2016, which I now feel as though will be a much more somber event because of the recent anti-gay terror attack in Orlando.

Pride Tattoo

Stephen Carlstrom’s Pride Tattoo, done by Vanessa (@dreadlocknessmonster) at Free Bird Tattoo in Flanders, NJ 

Anyone in the gay community, and many people beyond that community, has absolutely felt the shock of the deadliest terror attack since 9/11. 49 people were murdered in a senseless act of violence. It physically hurts to hear and see the names of the victims. This isn’t something that just Orlando has been mourning, it’s an event that everyone around the world is mourning.

As somebody in the public eye as a model, I hope to spread a message of love, of peace, and of acceptance. It’s important that members of all communities speak out against violence and terror like this. Hatred is a learned behavior, and so is tolerance. It’s unbelievably important not to drag politics into this situation, but to come together as a country and help Orlando and the broader gay community heal. It’s important for anybody to know they are not alone, and the only thing that could possibly trump hate is love. Although gay rights have been a hot-button issue in our country, it’s important for everyone to realize that the gay community is one full of love.

ap_16165050085914_custom-d2b65a5804244ee1d795d5bbcd26bdee137e2542-s2500-c85

People gather for memorial in front of the White House

I feel like I’ve been living in a fog ever since the news in Orlando. I cannot turn on the news without crying. What if this was me? What if it was some of my best friends? People go to clubs and bars like that because they can escape the world of judgement and go somewhere to be who they really are. I recall my first time in a gay club; I had never felt so happy to be myself. I feel helpless because there’s not much I can do besides donate to the record-breaking GoFundMe page that has been set up, and I want to do MORE. I stand with my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and I will be proudly standing with thousands of others at the NYC pride parade on June 26th. It’s important to remember that intolerance is inescapable, but we must work together to make everyone understand that human beings are simply human beings. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less. Please, please, please… Stop the hate. This can never happen again.

Anyone interested in donating to the victims of the Orlando shooting can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund

OMJ Trendsetter Stephen Carlstrom is a college student, New Jersey native and professional runway model.