Sexual identity expert Robyn Ochs speaking at Spalding

Steve Jones

In a presentation she hopes will be “eye-opening, brain-expanding, assuring and educational,” sexual identity expert Robyn Ochs will speak at Spalding University at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9. It’s free and open to the public at the College Street Ballroom, 812 South Second Street.

Ochs will deliver an interactive program called “Beyond Binaries: Identity and Sexuality,” which tries to educate people on how to understand sexuality and which labels they may use to describe sexual orientation.

“It’s my personal belief that we are too complicated to fit perfectly and neatly into labels or categories, and yet we keep trying to do that,” she said. “Labels can be good when we understand them as tools we can use. They can be dangerous if we think they mean more than they do. They can either help our thinking or limit our thinking. This program is really about trying to get us to think about identity and labels in a way that helps us understand and doesn’t get in the way of our understanding.”

Ochs, who travels nationally for speaking engagements, said the topics can be important to deliver on college campuses, in particular, because the “college years are a time when many of us come to terms with or develop a greater understanding of our own identities and our own roles in the world.”

She hopes her program will teach the audience some tools to better understand themselves and others. The interactive program will include an anonymous study of the people in the audience. Audience members are invited to complete a short, anonymous questionnaire. They’re shuffled and handed back out randomly to others, preserving every individual’s confidentiality while showing a look about who’s in the room.

Ochs said that an audience member at a recent presentation of “Beyond Binaries,” sent a text message afterward to the campus organizer that said, “This is the program I’ve been waiting for my entire life.”

“I think it does so many things and really helps people understand the broad array of experiences and perspectives in the room,” Ochs said. “I’ve had people say, ‘I feel so much less alone,’ ‘I feel affirmed,’ ‘I feel reassured.’ The program is designed for people of all identities, not just LGBTQ people. It’s for people all genders, all sexual orientations.”