MU
Oak Leaves

March 4, 2016

robyn_bigsmle_creditjoelbenjamin

LGBT Activist Robin Ochs

Ochs Advocates for LGBT Community

Aaron Lloyd

LGBT activist Robyn Ochs spoke to a couple hundred students on Feb. 23 in Cordier Auditorium about her past experiences with the LGBT community and how she is helping people with their problems today. 

An editor of “Bi Women Quarterly, Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World” and “RECOGNIZE: The Voices of Bisexual Men,” Ochs has also taught courses on LGBT history and politics in the United States. She travels around the country to advocate for the safety of all people, no matter their sexual orientations or their genders. She lives in Massachusetts with her wife, Peg, whom she married in 2004 on the day that same-sex marriage was legalized.

Much of Ochs’ time on stage consisted of her telling the audience stories about her past and why they are important to her. For instance, when she fell in love with another woman during her freshman year at college, she was so afraid and ashamed that she kept her feelings to herself for five years after that. But when she finally came out, she never stopped speaking out about her identity and helping people who are going through similar situations. “I made my voice heard back then, and I am proud that I haven’t shut up since,” Ochs said.

Ochs did not stop there. She also spoke about the changes in the LGBT community that have taken place over the last couple of years. Those changes consist of same-sex marriage being legalized this past summer, how members of the LGBT community are allowed to serve in the military, and how religious policies are less strict than ever.

She noted how these changes have affected the media aspect of the United States. Ochs spoke about the large number of television shows with LGBT characters in them, like “Modern Family,” “Glee” and “Orange is the New Black.” She also pointed out that LGBT changes have had an impact on the music industry as well, with songs like “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga and “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis being released within the last few years.

“The goal of my work is to make this world a safer place for LGBT people,” she said. “I want to be a part of a community that values all kinds of people, whether they be black or white, gay or straight, or rich or poor.”

At the end of her talk she took questions from audience members. How did she become a professional speaker for the rights of LGBT people? When she came out, she explained, there was no one around to help her cope with her new problems. She also said that, growing up, she was taught that if there was a problem in the world, then “fix it.”

Many members of the audience were touched by Ochs’ speech, one of them being first-year biology and chemistry major, Katie Bowerman.  “Even though I am not bisexual, I was very grateful to listen to someone who is very pro-bisexual and pro-love,” she said. “Through social media and even the LGBT communities, they are so mistreated because people like to act like they don’t exist.  They are looked at poorly because even people in the LGBT community believe that you should only love one type of person.”

Tyler Coffel, a sophomore accounting student, was also in attendance last Tuesday to hear Ochs speak.  “Her speech was a lot more interesting than I anticipated it would be,” he said. “She made a lot of great points and really opened my eyes to things I didn’t know were going on in our country. I wouldn’t have minded if the VIA went on longer than it did, she was great.”