Sexuality expert challenges students to think “beyond the binaries”

Robyn Ochs speaks to Kansas State students during the Beyond Binaries lecture in Manhattan, Kan. on Sept. 28, 2017. (Brittany Reed | Collegian Media Group)

Robyn Ochs, author and editor of Bi Women Quarterly, presented an interactive workshop Thursday evening titled “Beyond the Binaries: Identity and Sexuality.”

Ochs’ workshop explored how sexuality and identity are perceived on a social and personal level. The Kansas State Sexuality and Gender Alliance sponsored the presentation with the help of the LGBT Resource Center.

In the workshop, Ochs challenged participants to examine how sexuality is generally measured and how people identify themselves. Ochs compared the differences between the two by encouraging participants to fill out an anonymous survey and explore the results.

Ochs created the survey to help measure sexuality, sexual attraction and how these things change over time. She developed the survey for over two decades before presenting it and continues to adjust the survey as she learns more on the topic.

“If you don’t fit into someone else’s frame, the problem is with the frame, not you,” Ochs said. “Humans are too complicated to be sorted neatly into boxes, but we tend to do just that.”

Ochs explained that because humans are complicated creatures, sexuality is a complicated subject. Placing too much meaning on these social identities can become dangerous. Ochs encouraged attendees to use an intersectional mindset when thinking about other people.

“We need to understand that categories aren’t the whole story,” Ochs said.

Ochs said she believes people can be attracted to anyone, regardless of gender. She used the analogy that sexual orientation is like ice cream. You can like chocolate, vanilla, both or other flavors entirely.

Janae McKinney, sophomore in agricultural communications and journalism, attended the workshop hoping to learn more about gender and sexual fluidity.

“People need to understand how diverse the human experience is,” McKinney said.

McKinney said witnessing the data collected by the survey was a highlight for her because she realized the way people identify socially can differ from the way they identify personally.

Rachel Hunt, sophomore in biology and treasurer of SAGA, said she believes more people should attend talks like this that challenge societal norms.

“Education is important,” Hunt said. “We don’t talk about this stuff as a society, and the average person doesn’t understand fluidity.”

Hunt said the goal of SAGA is to create an open space so people of all orientations can share experiences and provide education on queer society. She encourages anyone interested to attend the SAGA meetings held in Union 206 at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

Brandon Haddock, coordinator of student services at the LGBT Resource Center, will be lecturing on queer sexual education Nov. 2.