Pride Month Spotlight: Tobias Wisner
When Otak’s Equity and Inclusion Committee began talking about Pride Month, Tobias Wisner quickly jumped to the front of the conversation. For Tobias, Pride represents “a radical act of self-love” and is particularly personal to his understanding of both himself and the world. Tobias explains, “It means giving yourself permission to celebrate and be a part of a community where people just want you to have fun. It’s also about awareness, that members of your closest circles of all different shapes, sizes, colors, and gender expressions are here and queer. And it means having hope that kids, teens, and adults can see the celebrations and feel comfortable and that being queer is something to celebrate and love about yourself.”
Tobias is quick to point out that Pride Month is not exclusively for people who identify as queer or as belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community. He lists several ways that his peers here at Otak can get involved and participate in Pride activities and wants to remind us all that, at its core, “Pride is a celebration.” Tobias suggests consulting the Human Rights Campaign website for locating opportunities to join in that celebration. For those interested in demonstrating their support of Pride and the queer community, you can check out the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a crisis service for LGBTQIA+ teens and youth, with a focus on suicide prevention and harm reduction. Tobias told me that the Trevor Project was meaningful to him growing up and that he knows there are many people who are struggling internally and may be experiencing serious mental health issues.
Pride Month, while it is a celebration, acknowledges and commemorates the Stonewall Riots. For Tobias, Stonewall represents, much like Pride, the direct action that is needed to courageously challenge systems of oppression. Pride is also a time to recognize the allies, advocates, and accomplices around us. Tobias quickly identifies his coworkers Laura Merriman and Anna Sutton as accomplices “mainly because of how accepted and comfortable I felt talking about myself with them from day 1. There were no assumptions made by either of them and it felt great to share this part of who I am with them.” Laura and Anna represent models for the rest of us in how to invite others into our spaces and work intentionally toward equity and belonging with care and compassion.
Equity and inclusion are aspirational, and Tobias suggests that, in order to guide our learning and growth, check out the Anti-Defamation League’s resources. Also, Tobias believes that “Something as small as a googling local orgs and celebrations in your area can do a world of good.” A simple Google search of “Pride in my area” will yield information about local organizations, Pride event sponsorship opportunities, and ways to participate in or attend a Pride parade. Further, Tobias believes that aspiration and representation are directly linked and challenges us to consider this in our work interactions and decisions, “Decision-makers and leaders that are part of the LGBTQ+ community have unique perspectives, and I think we can all aspire to lift those people up and give them a voice from the very top.”
Outside of work, Tobias challenges us to “aspire to think about heteronormativity and how [we] can be more inclusive in [our] thinking, using gender-neutral terms like ‘partner’ to refer to our significant other is one example, be mindful that not all sexualities exist on a binary, and not all assumptions about people you make are true.”
With Pride Month upon us, I urge all of us to exhibit care, compassion, and courage as we aspire to be more equitable and inclusive. Remember that Pride is a celebration as well as a commemoration and find a way to participate in Pride events. Otak is working with Pride NW to encourage volunteering among our staff. If you’re interested you can use this sign-up sheet to choose the volunteer opportunity for Portland Pride that is right for you.