Longtime bisexual rights activist Robyn Ochs was honored with the Susan J. Hyde Activism Award for Longevity in the Movement at the 21st National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. Ochs was recognized for her outstanding work and dedication to the LGBT movement and the advancement of equality.
Ochs is co-founder of the Boston Bisexual Women’s Network and the Bisexual Resource Center; editor of the international anthology Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World; has taught gender and sexuality studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and Johnson State College; and is a strong advocate for transgender rights, marriage equality and animal rights.
The Susan J. Hyde Activism Award is named after Creating Change Director Sue Hyde in honor of her dedication and outstanding work for more than 20 years at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). It is awarded every year at the Creating Change Conference to an activist who has a history of longevity in the LGBT movement.
In presenting the namesake award, Hyde told Ochs: “We hear your clear voice, we see your staunch advocacy and we respond to your loving insistence that our movement includes all of us.”
Upon accepting the award, Ochs delivered the following remarks:
I confess that when Sue Hyde contacted me to let me know that I would be the recipient of the Susan J Hyde Activism award for Longevity in the Movement, and I would be receiving – in her words – “a plaquey thing” and some cold, hard cash – I was stunned.
My first thought when I heard the news was “me?” They’re giving this important plaquey thing to someone who identifies as bisexual? I don’t think so. You’re joking, right?
My second thought when I heard the news was “You can’t be serious.” “I’m not old enough to get an award for longevity in the movement.”
But then I thought about what it has been like over the years being a bi activist in the movement formerly and sometimes still known as the Gay and Lesbian Movement, and sometimes still known as the Gay movement. And I remembered how hard it was – and sometimes still is – to be out and visible as bi or as a trans activist in a community where our presence was often not welcomed, and was sometimes overtly called into question. It took a whole lot of extra energy to be part of this movement that was often hostile, and that often ignored bi and trans activists, or treated us as the unwelcome stepchildren. This place that should have felt always like a safe haven and sustained us in our activism often did not feel safe or welcoming. So perhaps bi and trans activists should get to count those earlier years of activism in dog years. Using this calculation, that gives me about 150 years of activism in the movement.
I realize too that the award doesn’t say “most longevity in the movement.” It just says longevity. How many of you in this room have 25 or more years of activism in this movement?
(Wow.) We are a community rich in profoundly committed activists. And fortunately, we’re also rich in newer committed activists. Frankly, we’re just rich in activists.
It sustains me to come to Creating Change where I am surrounded by people working so hard on so many issues of importance to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, two spirit, and queer people. And to our straight allies as well. It’s very good medicine to be here, and makes us feel a whole lot less alone.
I am a full time speaker now, and I spend much of my time traveling around the United States. I have the privilege of coming firsthand to your cities and towns, and meeting you, and witnessing first hand the work that you are doing in your local communities. And I am so impressed by what I see. I am in awe of the amazing people who run LGBT centers on campuses, and of the student leaders on those campuses. And I meet brilliant and dedicated people who work in health, in aging, with youth, with substance abuse, with disability rights, in the field of domestic violence, for economic justice and against racism, and in communities of color. And I could go on and on and on because we are doing so many different types of important work. I salute everyone here today, whether you are gay for pay, or committed volunteers because together, together with all of these different types of work, we have a strong movement.
I am also the editor of the Getting Bi anthology, which contains the words of people from 32 different countries. In the process of putting together this book, I have come into contact with our amazing counterparts in Uganda, in Zimbabwe, in Poland, in Mexico, in Argentina, in Brazil and in so many other places. This work makes it clear to me that our perspective must be not only intersectional, but also transnational.
And to all of the bi activists, and the trans activists, and the intersex activists who are here at Creating Change, and to those who could not be here today: You inspire me. You inspire me. You are the reason I am still at it after 25 + years, and you are the reason I plan to do this work for another 25 years. Or perhaps, with luck, even longer.
And I want to acknowledge what Rea said today, because, Rea, your statement makes me feel welcome here. It really makes a big difference. Rea Carey models the type of leadership that we need in this movement.
Finally, this award has very special meaning for me. It is named after one of my role models and sheroes: Sue Hyde. Sue is a truly amazing woman, and I am thrilled to be given a plaquey thing with her name on it. Last year the recipient was Mandy Carter, a dedicated and formidable activist, and also a mentor and a friend.
So I stand here on this stage, feeling the blazing power of Sue Hyde on one side of me, and the relentless dedication and vision of Mandy Carter on the other, and I am grateful.
With a special shout out to all of the bi activists who have been creating change for so many years, and to all of the people who attended yesterday’s bi caucus, and to the people at every point of our beautiful sexuality spectrum, I am delighted to accept this award.