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Bisexual speaker addresses hate

October 14, 2009

If you’re planning to attend a workshop featuring Robyn Ochs, you’re as important to the show as the speaker.

Ochs, who is bisexual, brought her unique presentation style Wednesday evening to the RCAH Theatre in Snyder Hall to discuss homophobia and what it does to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Hosted by People Respecting the Individuality of Students at MSU, or PRISM, the workshop encouraged audience members to talk with each other to see how stereotypes have played a part in their lives.

At several points during the presentation, Ochs had audience members get together and discuss not only how homophobia has affected their lives, but how it can’t be combated.

“People learn so much more when they have a chance to engage actively,” she said.

“They have the opportunity to take that topic home to their own experience.”

Ochs’ style stood out to PRISM president and psychology senior Mandy Klein when she first saw Ochs speak at a bisexual awareness conference.

“When she was talking to this entire room of people she did a really good job of making it feel like you were not one in a crowd but really like a one-on-one conversation,” Klein said.

The responses from the audience varied from stories about how family members have forbidden people from being a full part of the family because of how they identify, to parents who blocked the sitcom “Will and Grace” to prevent their kids from being exposed to gay culture.

One story, which belonged to social relations and policy senior Lauren Spencer, wasn’t a story of parental misunderstanding, it was exactly the opposite.

Spencer, who is a lesbian, grew up with her mother, who also is a lesbian.

Her mother was supportive, she said, but when it came to issues facing the LBGT community, her mother was apathetic.

That inspired Spencer, who called herself an activist for the community, to do what she could to bring change.

“I don’t feel incredibly oppressed,” Spencer said. “But it has made me much more aware of oppressions people face.”

Ochs said one of her favorite things to do as a speaker is travel to college campuses and interact with students who might not have heard her perspective before.

“I love talking to people about things they haven’t necessarily had a chance to discuss,” she said. “I learn so much from them, and I hope that they learn from me as well.”

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