--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---
July 15, 1996
Reader's choice of book doesn't define sexuality
By Michelle Driscoll
My mother has always told me that I am what I eat.
I always new that she meant that healthy foods were best for a healthy body and that junk foods would produce undesireable results.
I never had the thought that because I ate a lot of, say, bananas I'd turn into one (although this was also a constant threat from my mother.
Recently, I wrote a review of a book of gay and lesbian humor -- and received a lot of strange looks when it was published.
People who had never thought of questioning my sexuality came up to me with the inevitable questions, sometimes put politely, but mostly crudely. Was I a lesbian? And, if not, why did I read and write a review on a gay and lesbian book?
I had expected this type of response and, in fact, welcomed it. It gave me a chance to test my hypothesis, that not only do people believe you are what you eat, but that you are what you read.
And I proved it.
Most people assumed that the only reason I'd read a gay and lesbian book was because I was a lesbian, too.
So I challenged them: Does reading something make you a part of the group to which the write belongs? Does it even mean that you agree with the ideas it presents?
Does reading a book by African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston mean I want to be, or am secretly, African-American? Or does reading a Hemingway short story mean I will be an alcoholic chauvinist and commit suicide?
Does reading works by people with views, lives and experiences different my own make me one of them?
From these questions I got a lot of "no, of course not!" responses. But if that was so, why the questions about my sexuality?
Perhaps it's because of the rampant homophobia in the world or because the article welcomed questions people had been dying to ask.
In either case, I'm glad I've been able to remind people that just because you eat a lot of bananas, you won't turn into one. You'll just benefit from its nutrients.
Likewise, if you read writing written by someone from a different background, you won't turn out like them, but you'll benefit from the opportunity to open your mind to their lives.