The boundaries of the typical masculine/feminine gender binary were broken on Wednesday, as bisexual author Robyn Ochs promised to take the small crowd in DPAC on an “exciting adventure” beyond the binary.
“I would like to take you on a journey to the landscape of sexual identity,” said Ochs.
Ochs’ goal was for students to recognize gender variation, and “to see through the lenses of identity” in order to better understand the complexity of human sexuality.
Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, asexual and queer, along with other identities, are all sexual identities. The gender binary is still the norm for American society, leaving other identities excluded, said Ochs.
“What human beings do is take really complicated things and make them seem simple,” said Ochs. “We organize them and package them, in some sort of way that feels tight, giving us the illusion of control over reality.”
Ochs’ key to understanding human sexuality is through intersectionality, a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in her 1989 essay concerning sexuality and race.
“Every single person has many different categories of identity,” said Ochs, explaining her interpretation of intersectionality, including “religion, political affiliation.
“Every single one of our identities affects all of our other identities – which means there is no one example of a person being gay, because gay does not exist in a vacuum,” she said.
One of Ochs’s main points was to differentiate between the terms gender and sex.
“Sex is between the legs, while gender in between the ears,” said Ochs, who added that people, more often than one might think, do not relate to their sex in the way they relate to their gender, and gender is far more complex than the typical binary system.
Ochs’s talk was followed by an anonymous survey of the audience regarding sexual and romantic preferences. The surveys were collected and redistributed among the students, and the results were displayed using numbers on the floor, representing the progression and variation of sexual behavior within our own campus community.
Kimberly Awiszio, senior English major and president of Pride Alliance, which sponsored the speaker said, “I thought the event went super well! The smaller crowd allowed for a more intimate and casual learning experience that was super awesome. Ultimately, the goal of the event was for people outside the GLBTQA community to take something away from it, and I definitely think that happened, so I’m very happy.”
Calvin Ridley, a junior studio art major, said, “Gender inclusion is important first and foremost because many people don’t understand the basics – for instance, the stark differences between sex and gender. A lot of people don’t even understand what bisexual or pansexual are. What about polyamory? Or even queer? It’s just a topic that many haven’t yet explored.”
According to Ridley, the audience was captivated by Ochs and her research, and, by the end of the presentation, she “had us all feeling very comfortable and educated on the topic.”
Jennifer Holden, a sophomore early education major, said, “Robyn’s talk brought a different type of event that you wouldn’t normally see on campus. It was very powerful, and I am glad that Pride Alliance choose to bring her to our school. Gender inclusion is something that I never really thought about that much until I went to the event tonight.
Holden said that the event has changed the way she looks at individuals.
Kate Turner, a senior psychology major, said, “I thought Robyn brought a lot of knowledge and experience to the campus, and gender inclusion is important to me because I know so many people who feel alone because people don’t realize there are more than two genders.”