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Bisexual activist speaks on campus, discusses minority stress

By Emily Sorkin Smith

Section: News

March 27, 2015

Bisexual activist Robyn Ochs spoke at the Brandeis Queer Resource Center (QRC) in Usdan this Thursday evening, March 26 at a workshop hosted by Triskelion and the QRC. The event explored the meaning of bisexuality and the challenges faced by people who identify as bisexual. Ochs focused in her talk on minority stress, which is the stress that members of stigmatized minority groups experience, and the impact of negative stereotypes on the bisexual community. Ochs asked students to broaden their definition of bisexuality and be more accepting.

The workshop began by asking the students in attendance to list stereotypes they had heard about people who identify as bisexual. Among the things brought up were the concepts that people who identify as bisexual are confused, greedy and unable to be monogamous. Ochs explained that these stereotypes discourage people from coming out of bisexual, fearing that people will respond negatively.

Ochs addressed the misconception that many people come out as bisexual as a stepping-stone to coming out as gay or lesbian, an idea she finds harmful to the bisexual community. “People call themselves bisexual because it’s easy, because they don’t have the strength or the commitment to come out as gay and lesbian because that’s just too hard and bi is easy so they just come out as bi,” Ochs said. “And to that kind of statement I say, on what planet, on what planet is that easy.”

To explain people’s negative opinion of bisexuality, Ochs used a four-point theory. She argued that bisexuality is stigmatized because it is not easily identifiable, because people have not received an education that includes bisexuality, because people often see sexuality in binary, and because American culture is very contradictory in regards to sex and sexuality. She argued that educating people about the complexities of sexuality is critical.

“We have a perverse relationship to the erotic” Ochs argued. “I think we are so weird about sex and sexuality and all our messages about it contradict each other all the time.” This contradiction can be very dehumanizing for bisexuals, who are often viewed only in terms of sex and not as complex humans, according to Ochs.

Ochs also spoke about the idea of minority stress, something which people who identify as bisexual frequently experience. Minority stress, according to Ochs, is quantifiable, and is higher in bisexuals for many reasons. Among these reasons is the fact that bisexuals are often stigmatized not only by the straight community but by the gay community as well, leaving a feeling of homelessness. As a bisexual activist, Ochs has spoken at college campuses, conferences, and on television. She helped to found the Boston Bisexuality Network, and serves on the Board of Directors for MassEquality. Ochs received the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucuses Lifetime Achievement Award for advocacy. Ochs ended the workshop by encouraging audience members to be accepting of all sexualities, and to recognize the limitation brought by labels.

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