The Bi Icon Robyn Ochs Lectures at Umass Dartmouth for Bi Visibility Month
(robynochs.com) (self photograped from lecture)
Staff Writer: Roxanne Hepburn
On September 22nd, in honor of Bi Visibility month, week, and day, Robyn Ochs gave a fantastic lecture about the spectrum of sexualities and the non-binary on the Umass Dartmouth campus hosted by the Center for Women, Gender, and Sexuality called Getting Bi: Beyond Bisexuality 101.
Bi Visibility Month takes place during September. The community also sets aside a specific week and day to focus those celebrations. The official Bi Visibility Week is September 16th-23rd. The official Bi Visibility Day is September 23rd to finish off the visibility week. But what is bisexuality? It is a part of the LBGTQIA+ spectrum and the most widely accepted definition by the community states that bisexuality is the sexual or romantic attraction to those of the same gender identity and those of different gender identities.
Now, who is Robyn Ochs? Robyn Ochs (she/they) is a speaker, teacher, writer, and grassroots activist who focuses on aiding and educating the LGBTQIA+ community. She is the editor of Bi-Women Quarterly a free newsletter based out of Boston provided in both print and online. They fund their newsletter through their nonprofit Etsy shop, Bi-Products. Ochs is also the editor of two anthologies, Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World and RECOGNIZE: The Voices of Bisexual Men. They have spoken in 49 states, and 17 different countries. Ochs began her work in the 1980s when struggling with understanding her own sexuality. One fun fact they highlighted about themselves is that they challenged the Merriam-Webster Dictionary about their definition of bisexuality and won. Merriam-Webster’s original definition of bisexuality stated it is the sexual attraction between the same and opposite sex. Ochs found that definition excluded those that existed outside of that binary. Starting in 2018, Ochs began tweeting at Merriam-Webster to change its definition. After two years, it finally changed its wording to the same and other gender identities rather than the opposite. Though Merriam-Webster did not acknowledge Ochs or their change in the definition, it is clear she heavily influenced that silent change.
(self photograped from lecture) (self photograped from lecture)
Ochs has a unique and quite personal definition of bisexuality. They see bisexuality as a way of claiming their whole self rather than specific behaviors at certain times. Throughout their lecture, Ochs emphasized that sexuality exists on a spectrum outside of the typical binary. That there is no one “best” label. She discussed Bi+ identities as well as nonbinary sexualities and how they are encompassed within the bisexual community.
They then continued by showing rising trends in sexualities in the US as well as globally. According to Gallup Surveys, 1 in 6 people surveyed in Generation Z are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. The trends demonstrated a rise in those willing to report their sexualities as the generations got younger; with the least amount of reported LGBT people being Baby Boomers and the most being in Generation Z. An even more surprising trend demonstrated by youth surveys given to high schoolers by the CDC every two years is not only the increase in LBGT community members but specifically in bisexual teens. Ochs affirms that these increasing trends establish the sexual continuum rather than binary attraction. Society is moving toward less straight, less cis-gender, and fewer binary identities/relationships.
(self photographed from lecture)
Ochs created a safe space for her audience while discussing the many struggles faced by bisexual people. They explained that bi people are significantly more likely to be exposed to partner violence and suicidal ideation than other members of the LGBTQIA+ community. This is due to ignorance in and outside the community and failed understanding of those who identify outside the attraction binary. Typical stereotypes of bisexuals were listed and debunked by Ochs one by one as she conferred with her audience about personal accounts of these stigmas.