As a young woman, Robyn Ochs went through a period of her life trying to find her sexual identity without much of the help that people today can seek out.
“I came out 41 years ago as bisexual,” Ochs said. “I came out at a time where there was no visibility of bisexual people. I had access to zero resources, I had no support, no information, nowhere to turn for affirmation.”
After dealing with that lack of information most of her life, Ochs is looking to teach people about gender and sexual identities so that they don’t have to feel isolated like she did.
The Massachusetts-based activist will be hosting a workshop Sept. 20 at Florida Atlantic University. Ochs had another workshop planned for Sept. 18 at the University of Miami, but it was postponed due to Hurricane Irma.
Her sessions start with participants filling out an anonymous survey which helps guide the conversation later in the workshop. Using that method, Ochs said she can help educate people about the differences within the community and create comfort in being able to talk honestly.
“I look to confirm the messiness and complexity of identity,” she said. “So many of us feel guilty or strange for having thoughts that don’t fit in these simple or binary structures. We need to recognize those things as beautiful.”
Ochs’ goal is to avoid marginalizing people’s experiences by not generalizing how they identify. She feels by recognizing those differences, you create a community that has more empathy and understanding.
“We need to see more clearly than we do, we need to understand that there is no one lesbian experience, gay experience, bi experience,” Ochs said. “When I think of the LGBT communities, I think of many overlapping communities. Not everyone sees the experience the same way.”
“We need to understand and recognize the differences within the community,” she continued. “The part that I focus on is that even within the labels there is a lot of variety within each label and we need to recognize those.”
As her work as an activist brought her around the world, Ochs said she has been able to bring other perspectives to her lessons. She hopes that method can attract a diverse audience of identities.
“My hope is that a very broad range of people attend, I like working with a wide range of people,” she said. “I think everyone will get something different from the program, but everyone will get something important.”
Previous participants in Ochs’ workshop say she has altered the way they see identities. She says a lot of them come away changed because they have never been exposed to the things she talks about.
“I’ve talked to one student who said it completely changed his worldview,” she said. “I talked to another who said it was a necessary dose of vitamin LBGTQ.”
With the effect it has had on people, Ochs wants to continue to share her lessons with the area. In general, she wants to promote a safe environment for all
“However you identify and whatever your exposure to LBGTQ issues, you are welcome.”
If You Go:
Session: Beyond Bisexuality 101
Location: Florida Atlantic University, Palmetto Palm Room (Sept. 20, noon)
This is a part of our Bisexual Visibility Week special package. Check out sfgn.com/2017biissue daily for new stories.