Bisexual activist Robyn Ochs speaks at Worcester State College

By Sasha Hnatkovich

 

September 2005 - “I’m fighting for my life and the life of other LGBT people,” says Robyn Ochs, bisexual activist. “I know how beautiful, diverse, and amazing the [LGBT community] is, and it’s worth fighting for.” Ochs has been fighting, by means of education, to help people understand bi identity for over 20 years – teaching, writing, and public speaking across the country and world. “If others could see what I see,” she says, “how could they be prejudiced?”

Ochs says that it is easy to identify oneself as heterosexual and it’s becoming less difficult to identify as homosexual. However, “…there is little space for the rest of us,” she says, arguing that bisexuality is too over-defined. “A lot of people think bisexuality must be defined by equal amounts of attraction to men and women, so they don’t think that there are many bisexual people,” she says, “By over-defining bisexuality, they erase it.”

Ochs defines bisexuality broadly. She calls herself bisexual because she acknowledges in herself the potential to be attracted, romantically or sexually, to people of either gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree. She laughs at how bisexuality is usually defined, saying, “All identities are subject to scrutiny. If you define heterosexuality as people who have only been attracted to people of the opposite sex, there are far fewer heterosexual people.”

Robyn Ochs recently edited a book entitled Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals around the World. The book focuses on the first-person narratives of 184 people from 32 countries around the world. “Rather than talk about other people’s bisexuality,” she says, “we created welcoming space for people to tell their own stories in their own words.” The focus has been on making the book, published by the Boston-area nonprofit organization Bisexual Resource Center, universally accessible. Not only has the price of book has been kept low, but Spanish and Mandarin translations and an audio book are all in the works too.

Robyn Ochs, 46, is married to Peg Preble, her partner of 9 years. They were married in Brookline, MA on May 17, 2004. She works at Harvard University as an administrator and says, “I like my day job, but, if I were rich, I’d be a full-time activist.” Ochs was raised in NY in what she calls an activist family. “It was very clear to me at an early age that it was my responsibility to fix the things that I saw wrong with the world,” she says. She enrolled at SUNY-Purchase with this enormous sense of responsibility, but with no idea what she could do.

Ochs came out to herself as bi in college, but not to other people for almost six more years. “I thought that if I told anyone, terrible things would happen,” she says. “There was no space to come out as bi, no existing community. I thought that I had to come out as a lesbian, but that didn’t describe me.” However, when she came out to friends and family in 1982, no one reacted as badly as she thought they would. “Many responded with, ‘I already knew that.’”

At the time Ochs came out, there were few people talking about bisexuality. After her experience, she realized that bisexual activism was a type of activism that needed people. “It’s not the only important thing in the world to me,” she says. “But I am particularly able to make a difference.”

Getting Bi is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and www.biresource.org. For more information, check out www.robynochs.com.

WHO: Robyn Ochs
WHERE: Worcester State College
WHEN: Thursday, October 27, 3:00 - 5:00pm
For more information, please contact Delta@worcester.edu or 508-929-8653.