Beyond the label: Sexual activist aims to break down stereotypes



Gay, straight, male or female — one campus visitor is hoping to break down the labels and  talk about how titles affect our lives.

Robyn Ochs, author, public speaker, professor and sexual activist, is coming to UK as part of the Cultural Diversity Festival. Alexandria Sehon, chairwoman of the Student Activities Board Engaging Issues committee, had the idea to bring Ochs to campus to open eyes to the subtle ways people use labels, especially in a region not always known for being open-minded toward sexual orientation.

“Southern universities have a hard stereotype of prejudice to overcome, and by hosting speakers who support different lifestyles and cultural norms, UK is being a forerunner in promoting greater love among students,” Sehon said.

Ochs is the editor of the Bisexual Resource Guide and the new anthology “Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World.” She has taught courses on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history and politics and is an activist for the marriage equality movement.

Ochs will visit three gender and women’s studies classes throughout the day to hold small workshops and will visit the OUTsource Center. Her lecture, titled “Beyond Binaries,” will focus on how labels affect relationships between people. It will begin at 7 p.m. in the Worsham Theatre.

By attending Ochs’ lecture, Sehon said students can be a part of an intimate dialogue about   an often-misunderstood lifestyle, and perhaps leave the event with a greater capacity for understanding their fellow students.

“I feel that everyone, students, faculty, and the community at large, can benefit from airing out ‘hush-hush’ subjects like sexuality and creating a more open and supportive atmosphere in Lexington,” Sehon said.

Jill Baranowski, director of Engaging Issues, said the event is not limited to people of any particular sexual orientation. Those simply wanting to show support should attend, she said.

“(Ochs) has a lot of great information regarding not only those in the LGBT community, but also those allies who are heterosexual but want to support their friends in the LGBT community,” Baranowski said. “Many are unaware of the LGBT groups on our campus, and may also be uninformed about how to relate to those people involved in those groups. Her lecture will hopefully enhance the relations between communities at UK.”