The Council on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity recently welcomed Robyn Ochs, who put on the talk “Beyond Binaries: Identity and Sexuality.”
Ochs is an educator, campus speaker, a grassroots activist as well as an editor for the Bi Women Quarterly and two anthologies that focus around the idea of bisexuality.
Ochs started her talk in the form of a question. Saying, “Have you ever been told your sexuality is a phase? That being a bisexual won’t last. Well, I am here to show you that that is a wrong idea. I am exhibit A, I have been bisexual for 41 and a half years now.”
This talk emphasized that it was OK to be who you are, whoever that is, no matter how long it takes you to find who you truly are.
“We are many many things at once, not just our sexuality,” said Ochs. “We are our ability or our disability, our gender, our age, our political beliefs, or even our class.”
This is an idea that is echoed throughout the program, that it is OK to be whatever you identify as because that makes you who you are.
Brianna Schunk, junior English and dance dual major echoed this idea as to why events like this are important.
“Queer visibility events are so important around our campus,” Schunk said. “We have GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) and other support events, but none really like this where everyone, even members of the community can come. The queer community is one that needs exposure, needs to be known, needs to be felt. For people to be able to be seen and not afraid. That is why we need events like this.”
Helen Davis, a Wilkes English professor also commented on why these types of events are important for the campus community.
“These events help us understand each other more,” Davis said. “They broaden our perspectives and make topics that people have trouble understanding easier to see. This also helps to transform the lens of students to come to a collective frame of reference.”
This program is one that Ochs said these talks have given her a sense of validation and allow her to remain varied and complex.
“We think in binaries,” she commented. “This program shows through our own experience, through how we are in this room. It shows how complex and interesting people are, these charts and graphs are a huge impact on our views in this room. This is because each number represented one person in this room. It is an actual being right here.”
This is in reference to the interactive portion of the talk. There was an interactive study that was anonymous. This was done by filling out a 20-question form that was optional. Questions on this included different questions about sexuality, gender, crushes and even how families view your sexuality.
This then was taken to a real-life Ochs scale. This allowed people to stand on the points that people had actually ranked themselves, and show it on a demographic scale. The rankings were one to seven with one representing similar gender choices and seven being different gender choices from your own. There is also an “N/A,” “X,” and “?” choice for those who do not fit on the scale.
This scale is an adapted version of the Kinsey scale, so that it can be more inclusive of everyone and their choices and how they identify.
This exercise ignited a conversation from the audience about how sexuality and gender can be as private or as open as you need it to be. Ochs said “this is ‘I’dentity not ‘U’dentity” emphasizing that there are endless possibilities with how you see yourself and your gender.”
There was also a conversation on attraction. Ochs provided insight into why we need to find more words and to be clearer with expression.
“We do not have complex enough vocabularies yet. But we will get there, we will find it, but humans are just so complex,” she said.
This is something that she mended together by saying attraction is temporal, but you are forever, so fall in love with yourself first.
This brought up how to help yourself come to a clearer point in who you are.
There are many resources available to students and even community members that are struggling with their identity or finding themselves.
On campus, the first resource is to reach out to CODIE, this can be done by talking to Helen Davis or to Erica Acosta. The other options include Wilkes University’s safe space ally program, the LGBTQ+ awareness and ally sessions, the LGBTQ brochures that can be picked up around campus, and lastly, Title IX can also be reached out to.
In the community, some resources that are available include biresources.org as well as Och’s journal, Biwomen Quarterly. This can be found at biwomenboston.org
Ochs said that if anything, she “wants to allow people to have permission to exist. To be comfortable in their own skin. To be comfortable in their own skin and to not have the answers. But to also know they are not alone in not having those answers. That it is OK and they are not alone.”
To support Ochs in her journeys, and to support Biwomen Quarterly, her buttons, flags and jewelry are available for sale on her Etsy shop, Biproducts. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to funding for the journal.