Changing Lives, One Lecture at a Time

Kaylyn Boccia, Staff Writer

Robyn Ochs honored Coming Out Month on campus Tuesday October 23 by wearing her blue Action Hero shirt and speaking about equality and identity. Ochs was introduced by the president of the Gender and Sexuality Club, and opened up by saying that she hopes to “change people’s lives in 90 minutes.”

Robyn Ochs is an educator, speaker and activist. She is the editor of “Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World” and the Bi Women newsletter. Ochs has taught courses on LGBT history and politics in the United States and the politics of sexual orientation. She has won numerous awards for her work and is an advocate for the rights of all people and all identities.

In 1976, Ochs came out in her sophomore year of college as a bisexual. She mentioned during her talk that she had little resources during that time period to figure out bisexuality, and she felt alone and uncomfortable. Ochs used an interesting term to describe her lack of resources, which made the crowd laugh stating, she came out “BG,” meaning “before Google.” Ochs’ turning point in her life, as well as in her attitude towards who she is, was a bisexual discussion she attended at the Women’s Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Until that meeting, she felt like she was the only one. Being surrounded by 19 other bisexual women made her feel like she could finally be herself and she no longer felt alone or different. When Ochs asked these women if they too felt like they were alone and different prior to this discussion, the majority agreed. Since this moment, Ochs had gone from quiet about her sexuality, feeling alone and uncomfortable, to sharing it with the world.

Ochs has tried to create resources for young adults that she had wished she had while she was growing up. Initially, her talks consisted of strictly bisexuality, but she then chose to widen her spectrum and talk about all sexual identities. Ochs believes that a person has many different identities.

Ochs talked about significant people in our history who have had an effect on how we view sexuality today. The first person she spoke about was sexologist Alfred Kinsey. His study on sexuality of a human male was a significant piece in history. Using Kinsey’s scale, the audience participated in an interactive activity. Each member was given a sheet of questions to fill out with the numbers 0-6, with zero being exclusively heterosexual, six being exclusively homosexual and 1-5 being everything in between. These papers were then placed on the stage and given to another audience member. The purpose of this was to keep anonymity, and to be able to walk in another person shoes, quite literally. The audience was then asked to go to the back of the room where Ochs had created a large replica of Kinsey’s scale on the floor. As Ochs went through each question, each person moved to the number that correctly represented his or her person’s answer. The questions focused on sexuality during certain time periods, as well as certain experiences.

The final question asked of the person on this sheet was, “how do they identify sexually?” Ochs yelled out different identities and made sure to say that when she was done she wanted to hear any other identity she did not mention to make sure no one was left out. Members from the audience stated later that this exercise stood out and impacted them greatly. Extremely memorable during this exercise was Ochs mentioning that through the years of her doing this activity, the range of people in the middle and extremes of the spectrum had evened out, which showed her that “society has become more open.”

Ochs also talked briefly about Fritz Klein, a psychologist who reminded people that sexuality is more complicated than a line, like Kinsey’s model.

To conclude her interactive speech, Ochs involved the audience one last time by going around and asking each person to share what they were going to take away from this discussion. A majority of the audience expressed how the Kinsey scale activity affected them, and also shared a positive example of something they learned and/or liked. The audience consisted of all sexes and identities, and the crowd was open and respectful of each other. Ochs delivered a memorable speech for everyone who attended, and each member learned just a little more about someone else in the room. If only for two hours, individuals were finally given the chance to walk in someone else’s shoes.

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