The Network

for LGBT Tobacco Control

Beyond Binaries: Identity & Sexuality with Robyn Ochs

If you want to have your world rocked and your life changed, go to a workshop by Robyn Ochs.

I know, it sounds kind of cheesy right? Robyn is *amazing* and her workshops truly are life-altering.  Check out the website and see what other folks have to say.

This morning I attending her workshop “Beyond Binaries: Identity & Sexuality” which is the same type of workshop she did last year where I first met her and she definitely changed my life for the better.  Robyn’s favorite thing to say in her description is “like snowflakes, no two people are exactly alike.”

She starts out with a basic explanation and history of the Kinsey scale and two other models that have been used to study sexuality/sexual orientation and behavior and the limitations of those models. The biggest?? They’re all operating on binary systems!! Binary systems of gender, and binary systems of sexual orientation.  Male or Female.  Straight or Gay. That’s it.  No, that’s definitely not it.  Robyn has folks fill out a survey tracking how they identified over the years, how they did or did not behave in terms of making out and being sexually active, who they were attracted to, who they fantasized about, and what their close friends and family think is the appropriate label for their sexual orientation.

That might sound kind of scary, but it’s all anonymous.  When you’re done, they shuffle all the surveys together and then collect a random sample and pick people based on the month they were born to get a piece of paper and go to the front of the room to represent that person and their identity.  We then watch as people move along the scale answering each question and you see a powerful visual representation of how truly FLUID people’s sexual orientation is.  She jokes about the people who get an aerobic workout going back and forth along the numbers of the spectrum for different answers to different questions.  There was only ONE person out of over 100 people sampled who stayed in the same category for the entire set of questions.  Everyone else moved either a little or a lot.  Straight to gay to bi to a little bit closer to the middle and all over the place.  People don’t end up standing only on 0 for totally straight, 6 for totally gay and 3 for totally bi, they end up all over the place from 0 to 6.  It’s really powerful to see how much of a continuum and diversity there really is.

An even cooler thing is when people answer the question “where on the scale do you wish you were?” and why?

We find out that people say they are totally gay when they actually inwardly feel more bisexual because they fear stigmatization and rejection from their gay friends.  We find out that straight identified folks are actually not so straight.  Some people say they wish they were totally gay or totally straight because it would be easier.  Some people say they wish they were more bisexual and could be open to more possibilities.   Some people say they are perfectly happy with where they are on the spectrum.

Robyn always asks “how many people have ever been made to feel guilty for being sexually active?”  and everyone raises their hands.  Then she says “how many people have ever been made fun of or feel guilty for not having sex?” and everyone raises their hands.  Then she says, okay, so who is winning here? and everyone says- no one! we live in a culture that stigmatizes sexual activity or a lack of sexual activity and that is obsessed with labels.  What does this workshop show us about the labels? They don’t really work for us.

New labels get thrown out into the crowd- heteroflexible, homoflexible, bicurious, omnisexual, pansexual, trysexual, androsexual, gynosexual etc etc I can’t remember them all.  And then Robyn says “labels are tools of convenience, but they don’t work for all of us!” and it’s so true.   She asks if you’ve ever been attracted to someone’s voice and almost everyone raises their hands.  “Well, then I’m a Tracy Chapman-osexual” or what about tall people ? Tall-0-sexual? or smile-o-sexual…the different things we are attracted to about people.  “intellectual-o-sexual” she says and smiles and the room murmurs with people shouting out more contributions.

You leave that workshop feeling energized even though it’s 9 a.m. and you may not have gotten much sleep, and after the first time and each time after that, if you’re me, you leave feeling better about yourself and not quite so queer for being not gay not straight not quite bi, but queer!

Definitely check out her website (no I don’t work for her, she really is just my hero) and if you can, bring her to your school or community organization.  I worked like crazy to bring her to our campus after meeting her last year and the event was a huge success that generated tons of positive feedback and good energy.


February 6, 2010 - Posted by | Creating Change 2010


  1. I remember when I first came out at 16, came out as bi b/c i thought i would be more accepted by peers and parents…even though deep down i felt that I was gay. I guess I was more involved in the str8 world back then but through my emersion and involvement in the queer community, i see the biphobia fairly frequently unfortunately.

    Thank you for the rundown, Logan!


    Comment by queerthanqueer | February 6, 2010 | Reply

    • I hope you’re feeling better! We should definitely chat more about this, especially as my views and experiences have changed a lot based on different environments I’ve been in, some of which we have in common! I’ve also found a lot of intersections with biphobia & transphobia.

      Comment by druckman | February 7, 2010 | Reply

      • Glad we connected via another social media outlet, facebook…we must chat! I added you on gchat as well.

        Looking forward to swapping experiences and knowledge


        Comment by queerthanqueer | February 8, 2010

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