Robyn Ochs celebrates bisexuality with a collection of essays from around the world
BIG D’S BI PRIDE TOUR
Ochs will attend a casual dinner and speech, open to the public, at The Bronx, 3835 Cedar Springs Road, Sept . 26 at 7 p.m. RSVP to Matt@dfwbi.net. On Sept. 27, Ochs is the guest on Lambda Weekly, KNON 89.3 FM, at noon, and will attend a book signing at Resource Center
Dallas, 2701 Reagan St., at 4:30 p.m. Free. On Sept. 28, Ochs will lecture at the University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle, Denton, at 4 and 7:30 p.m. RobynOchs.com.
More than 25 years have passed since Robyn Ochs helped found the Boston Bisexual Network, and in that quarter-century, her mission has spread far beyond the borders of Beantown, with her LGBT activism reaching television and national publications.
But being in the forefront that long, fighting for visibility and equal rights and being talked to by the likes of Phil Donahue and Newsweek, what could Ochs say that she hasn’t said already? She has been asked every question in the book about bisexuality more than once. But has she been asked the right questions after all this time?
"A lot of questions are about biphobia — what’s hard about being bi, how bad is it. There is a very negative focus to the discussion," Ochs says. Instead, she wouldn’t mind having conversations that define bisexuality and what’s wonderful about it and "what it brings to all of us."
And what exactly would that be?
"People who are out-and-proud about their identity bring to everyone else a dose of truth. We remind people of the beautiful diversity and variations of this world. Some people want things that are simple — and things aren’t. But that’s a gift," Ochs says.
Her voice takes on a distinctly optimistic tone as she talks, as if she’s relieved to get it off her chest. She wants to battle the great misconception about those who identify as bisexual: That the orientation is rooted in confusion.
Bisexuals are often accused of wanting to have their cake and eat it, too — that their identity is inherently gay but they can’t let go of social norms. Ochs sighs at these uninformed notions parroted at her over the years. But even more frustrating is when the gay and lesbian community renders the bi community invisible.
"I get tired of hearing we don’t exist or that we’re not committed to LGBT activism. I hear it from multiple sources but it hurts when it comes from my LGBT colleagues," she says. "Everyone is hungry for a place we’re all accepted and fully welcome but we’re not always welcome home.
"We sometimes have to struggle to be accepted and when we’re not, it not only hurts us, it hurts the movement."
In Ochs’ eyes, that kind of behavior is wasted energy. The energy she uses to battle that discrimination, she says she could use to fight for ENDA or against DOMA. Because of that, Ochs figures that the LGBT (or any sub-minority) loses allies and potential activists when they aren’t inclusive.
As an educator, she admits to taking a deep breath and continues her duty to teach, regardless who is trying to knock her and the bi community down.
"I’ve had many opportunities to be resilient. I feel like Plastic Man," she says with a laugh.
Seeing how Dallas recently celebrated Pride with its parade and festival, Ochs reflects on bi Pride.
"Bi Pride is a celebration and a valuing of sexual identity. It’s shines a light on who we are. For me, that’s what Pride events do, affirm and celebrate diverse identities. It’s not only an intellectual idea but also an emotional one," she says.
The second edition of her book, Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, which has just been released, could be defined the same way. This edition contains 36 new stories since the original was published in 2005. Stories from places like Bulgaria, New Zealand and Uganda broadens the scope of bisexuality, clearly stating that it is not an invisible community. Ochs says she hopes the book will not only celebrate bi identity but can be used constructively.
"I see that it could be an educational tool for anyone who doesn’t quite understand it or who wants to learn more about it. Its real people, ages 15 to 79, talking about real experiences and it looks into the experience of other parts of the world. It’s not academic jargon. They are just telling their stories," she says.
Which is all Ochs wants. The more people are educated and exposed to the bi community, the less invisible it becomes to its naysayers.
"Mostly we need to educate ourselves more," she says. "I wish we could prescribe a medication to people who don’t understand! There so much we don’t see. I don’t think anyone could read that book and not come out clearer and with a better understanding and respect for bisexuality."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2009.