Pride ad campaign creator Ross Neil on why it’s time we all had #NOFILTER

It’s a period of mixed emotions at WCRS. As the executive creative director of the current #NOFILTER campaign for Pride in London I am filled with gratitude and admiration for the whole team. On the other hand, the tragic events in Orlando earlier this month have left us all devastated. #NOFILTER was meant as a celebration of looking forward and a promise to the future: go on and live your life with #NOFILTER. However now, rather prophetically, I wish this campaign had spoken to one man in the last few months – Omar Mateen.

As reports build and stories unfold the billion dollar question is – why? Why did one man decide to commit the biggest mass shooting in US history, killing 49 and injuring 53? It is now coming to light that the 29-year-old, Omar Mateen, had no connection with Islamic State and was in fact a frequenter of the gay bar that he opened fire in. Surely he was scoping out the crime scene? For three whole years…? He has been identified by multiple witnesses as someone who cruised the bars trying to pick up men for the past three years. Others recognise him from gay dating apps. His ex-wife, Sitora Yusifiy, who left him because he used to beat her, has said he was mentally unstable and mentally ill.

The picture being painted is of a man who had been forced into an arranged marriage, felt confused and trapped and in a fit of frustration at not being able to be the man he wanted to be, went on a killing spree. This was a man who lived his life with multiple filters – a heterosexual filter, a married filter, a deeply religious filter and a homophobic filter. This was a man crying out for help.

The #NOFILTER campaign implores members and allies of the LGBT+ community to live their lives with no filters or restrictions, without limiting who they are or pretending to be someone else for the sake of society. Stop wearing a face in public, be who you are, STOP self censoring.

If Omar Mateen had only reached out, had manned up and admitted to himself that he was pretending to be someone he wasn’t, this tragedy could have been avoided. Instead of being 49 down, the LGBT+ community could have been plus one.

It’s awful watching the slow ripples of this event now spread out. It literally could not have happened at a worse time. Presidential hopeful Donald Trump is now publicly saying ‘I told you so’. He’s using this horrific cry for help as leverage to help move his banning of Muslims entering the country, which will in time have its own repercussions. A leader telling a country he wants it to be great again and in his first move he is ostracizing an entire religion feels a little 1930s doesn’t it? And all because a young guy from New York who worked as a security guard felt he had to live life pretending he was someone else.

If only someone had reached out to Mateen and said it’s OK to be who you want to be. Members of the LGBT+ community in Orlando have said they see it all the time – men coming to the clubs and bars to interact and date other men then going home to their wives. The pent up frustration of a man desperately wanting to be something else, something he isn’t. And, instead of confronting who he is and realising he has to change, he goes in the opposite direction and kills the community he clearly wanted to be a part of. This is clearly the most immature reaction possible, going home and taking your football with you. If I can’t play then no one can.

It’s a strange thing that someone so on the outside has brought so many together under the unwelcome blanket of mourning. Watching the vigils around the world and seeing how these events solidify people is a wonderful light in the darkness. Old Compton Street displayed a bright beacon of hope in the inky numbness. It was heart warming to see the #NOFILTER message peppered amongst the crowd. I hope that the campaign's original message has some purpose at this time. I think Lady Gaga put it best, saying at a vigil in LA ignore the voices that aim to divide us, this only leads to more violence between people. We must unite as humans, where we are all the same.

The spirit of Pride in London is inclusiveness and acceptance. Where else better to celebrate our togetherness than Pride in London tomorrow?

It’s difficult to take any positives from such a dreadful event, but the one thing that could be taken from this is that now more than ever we all have to live our lives with no filter. From now on we all have to stop pretending to be someone else, accept who we are and accept who other people are. Whether gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, politically left or right be who you are and live your life with #NOFILTER.

Ross Neil is the executive creative director at WCRS

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