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BEING BLIND & GAY
by Robert Feinstein

I was born on December 1, 1949. I was three months early, and only weighed 1lb. 14oz. I was put into an incubator and, due to the
amount of oxygen I was given, my retina cells developed too quickly, and became so damaged that by the time I was brought home from
the hospital, I was totally blind. I of course have never seen and have absolutely no visual memories at all.

My parents decided that they would try to treat me as normally as possible, and although I often heard the word "blind" I did not really
know what it meant. I was guided by my mother, or by my aunts. I was always made a fuss over because people said I was such a "cute
little boy". Many lamented my fate, but I was carefree and happy. When I was about 5 years old, I began to realize that I was different from
other children. I heard children running around without being guided. Kids talked about coloring, drawing, and writing with a pencil. When
I asked my mother, she told me that I would go to school and learn to read and write braille. I knew I was different, but I of course did not
understand the ramifications of my blindness, and took all in stride.

ALL I COULD DO
was listen to the sound of the chalk

When I was about 8 years old, I began to realize that other kids made friends more easily than I did. I went to a school far from my home,
and was taken there by bus. There were other blind kids at the school, and I noticed that we all stayed together. When we did go to
classes with the sighted kids, we were treated kindly, but were not fully included. I would sit for hours listening to kids read out loud from
print books, or hear the teacher writing on the blackboard. I loved the sound the chalk made against the blackboard, but I realized that
others could read what was being written, and all I could do was listen to the sound of the chalk.

I will skip a few years and talk about when I was 14 years old, and in the ninth grade. I began to be teased by the other blind kids,
because I mostly wanted to play with the girls, and did not want to participate in the rough games the blind boys played. They would play a
kind of hockey with a large wardrobe and a crushed cigarette box. Where the wardrome touched the wall on each side were the goals and
the cigarette box was the puck. The blind kids played another game called taxi, where one of us would sit in a chair and the other would
move the chair around the room very quickly. Because we were blind, the person pushing the chair would often bang into things.

I was afraid of these games because I was always overweight, slow, clumsy, and I usually wound up getting badly hurt. I much preferred
sitting and reading a braille book, or talking to the girls. I even learned to bounce a ball, and learned some of the rhymes the girls would
say while playing ball or jumping rope. I was teased unmercifully, and soon, even the girls got tired of playing with me, and so I mostly
stayed alone, reading, and listening to what was going on around me.

I knew that I was very different from the other kids, and I felt horribly lonely. I didn't fit in with the sighted kids, but what was worse, I didn't fit
in with the blind kids, either. All the boys were interested in sports and rough games. I wasn't. Some talked about girls, but because I was
blind from birth, and because nobody ever talked to me about sex, I had no idea what was being discussed. I am ashamed to say that I
didn't even know the difference between girls and boys, except that girls were usually nicer to me, and yet, I felt a strange feeling when
hugging a male student.

When I was 15 years old, a girl explained to me how babies were born. "You're very stupid!" Harriet told me. "Your father stuck his penis in
your mother's hole, and that's how you were born. Don't you know anything?" I wanted to ask more questions. Where was this hole? What
was all this talk about "hard-ons" and "erections?" But I knew that if I admitted how little I knew, I'd be laughed at, so I kept quiet. I could
not ask my mother. She never talked about such things, and I knew she would only be upset and tell me not to ask so many questions.
So, I ordered books in braille about sex, and read them, and had a vague understanding.

What is surprising, and very important, is that I began to realize that I was attracted to other boys and men, and not to women. I realized
that I had a strange feeling when close to people of my own sex that I did not have when I was with women. I somehow knew that this
was not the way it should be, and never mentioned it to anyone.

I TRIED DATING GIRLS,
but I knew it wasn't working.

I will now talk about my college years. I spent 4 years at a well known college in Ohio. I had finally figured out that I was gay. I wondered if
there were other gay students, but did not know how to meet them. I tried dating girls, and forced myself to kiss them, but I knew it wasn't
working. I wanted to talk about my feelings, but had nobody to express them to. When I was a senior, some students who I had heard
were gay decided to start a discussion group. I wanted to go, but was afraid to ask for directions to where the discussion was taking
place, because I did not want others on campus to realize I was gay.

To understand my dilemma, it is important to realize that I was not able to fit in with the other students because of my blindness. I had
some casual friends, but I was not part of any social group. I spent much time alone, or being read to by fellow students. I therefore was
very uneasy about admitting that I was gay, because I was afraid I would be even more unaccepted than I already was. I felt that I had
enough strikes against me by virtue of the fact that I was blind and overweight. I didn't have the courage to add another problem to the list.
During my four years at college, I never had any gay friends, and never even knew that one of my roommates was gay. I kept all of my
feelings inside.

Now, I must talk about my two years in France. I went to France through an American program, and I stayed there for two years. I arrived in
France after my graduation from college. I met two blind guys who were gay. One was a fellow from Algeria, and the other was a blind
French guy. I had my first experiences with them. I wanted desperately to meet other French gay people, but was afraid to ask my
classmates. I had no access to printed materials, and no way to try to meet French gay people.

I WAS READY
to conquer the gay world!

When I returned from France, I got a job working with non-English speaking kids who needed help with reading and speaking English. I
badgered my parents until they helped me get my own little studio apartment. I still live in this apartment, as rents are very high in NYC,
and I am presently on a fixed income because I took an early retirement. But getting back to my story: when I finally had my apartment, I
decided I was going to try to meet gay people. I was now free from my parent's restrictions, and I had a guide dog. So, I was ready to
conquer the gay world! But how could I find information? I had nobody to read printed material to me dealing with gay subjects. I had no
way to know who was gay and who wasn't. I wondered how sighted gay people met. I finally called a gay hotline and was given the names
and addresses of some gay bars. I was told about a group called "mirth and girth" which is for overweight gay people. (In Montreal, I think
the group exists under the name Club Panda.)

I remember my excitement when my guide dog and I set out for our first gay bar. We got off the subway at Christopher Street, a street in
the heart of Greenwich Village. I asked for directions to the bar, but once inside, I realized that this wasn't going to work! First of all, the
noise level was incredible! I couldn't hear a thing. Second of all, because I couldn't see, I had no idea what was going on around me. I
was basically rendered deaf and blind because of the noise level. I sat at the bar, and felt worse and worse as time went by. Nobody tried
to talk to me. I finally got the courage to tap the person next to me, and to try to strike up a conversation. The guy was polite, but after
talking with him a while, he told me he was with someone. I realized that I had no way of knowing who was alone, who was with
someone, and what was going on. I went to other bars on subsequent days, but had no better luck.

I began to realize that being blind was proving to be a barrier in my meeting gay people. I decided that, perhaps the problem was the fact
that I was overweight. So, I decided to go to a Mirth and Girth dance. Surely, there would be people much heavier than I was, and surely I'd
have a better time. Well, unfortunately, the same thing happened. I was shown to a seat, and there I stayed. Nobody came over to talk to
me. I finally left and vowed I would never try to meet gay people in this way. It wasn't working, and I was feeling worse about being blind
and being gay than I ever had in the past.

I AM DISAPPOINTED
with the gay community.

What is my situation now? Well, I am 47 years old. I have very few gay friends. I have strong opinions, though. Basically, I am
disappointed with the gay community, at least in NYC. I had thought that, because of the horrors of AIDS, gay people would be sensitized
to the needs of others. But this hasn't been my experience. It seems that the gay community is ready to help those who become blind
from AIDS. They reach out to those suffering from AIDS. This is how it should be. But this compassion does not extend to those of us who
are gay and blind for other reasons. What I am about to say may sound harsh, but it seems to me that if you are a person with AIDS, you
gain a certain respect, even a certain prestige in the gay community. Organizations are set up to help meet your needs. You are included,
and you are helped. But if you are just an ordinary gay person with a disability, you don't have that certain "mystique". You are made to feel
like you do not belong.

I know that many people with HIV suffer visual problems, and I would like to see more communication between people born blind like me
and those who went blind later in life from HIV complications. I think we could teach each other a great deal, and broaden each other's
horizons. For example, I know what it is like living with blindness, but these people had careers and lived a full gay lives, something that
has been denied to me. I now have one friend who is losing his sight. He was a costume designer, and he has been a wonderful
resource for me; he says I have helped him, too, so it has grown into a great friendship. I wish gay organizations would open their hearts
to those of us who are not blind from AIDS or HIV, but who who do need help with readers and companionship.

Imagine walking down a heavily gay populated street. You see a blind person with his guide dog. You probably don't stop to ask yourself,
"Is he gay? Could he want to talk? Would we have something in common?"

I WANT TO HAVE a few buddies
I can feel a closeness to.

I hope that I have been able to give you a glimpse of what life is like for me as a totally blind and gay man. I also hope that I will make
some new friends and meet some people who will accept me for who I am, and who will be able to look beyond my blindness. What is
sad to me is that I have met some exceptionally kind gay women, and some straight men, with whom I have become friendly. But I want to
have more gay male friends. I want to be able to talk with other gay men, take walks with them, have things described to me, have things
read to me that pertain to gay topics, and have a few buddies who I can feel a closeness to.

I ask only that I be accepted for who I am. It is of course important to realize that certain things are a must. First of all, it is imperative that
any new friends I make understand that I need help with certain tasks: being guided, having things read to me, and having movies
described. Also, it is important that anyone wanting to get to know me understand that my dog comes with me. I will never permit anyone
to try to tell me I cannot enter with my dog, whether it be a restaurant, or a taxi. So I ask any new friends to respect my dog and his work
and devotion to me.

Once I make a friend, with time and patience, my blindness becomes less of an issue. In fact, a close friend of mine who comes to read
my mail every week, has told me that he just takes it as a matter of course. He guides me easily and knows that "No dog, no Bob!"

Remember, whether we can see or not, whether we can hear or not, whether we can walk or not, we are all human beings with the same
needs, desires, wants, dreams, and hopes. We are not as different as our outward appearance would make you think at first glance



Personas con visión reducida cuentan cómo descubrieron su homosexualidad

Solemos dar por sentado que la forma en la que las personas descubren su sexualidad es casi la misma a la de la mayoría; no
obstante, esa mayoría no representa a todas las personas ni a sus particularidades, las cuales hacen que sus experiencias y su
sexualidad se inscriba de forma totalmente diferente a las de quienes representan la hegemonía o quienes gozan de privilegios.

La vida de un hombre gay de clase media es diferente a la de una mujer lesbiana indígena, las generalizaciones de un todo LGBT se
quedan cortas cuando hablamos de diversidad; y aún más cuando reducimos la atracción sexual a un aspecto visual, pues en dicho
acto excluimos a las personas ciegas y sus experiencias.

Recientemente en un foro de discusión de la página de internet Reedit, uno de los usuarios planteó una pregunta que levantó una gran
revelación de anécdotas. “Gente ciega y gay, ¿Cómo descubrieron que son homosexuales?”, se planteó en el foro y pronto la
publicación se llenó de historias que derribaban estereotipos y mostraban que en la sexualidad y la atracción no todo es visual.


A continuación te dejamos algunas respuestas de los usuarios:

1.-“Luchando con otros chicos, en el contacto cuerpo a cuerpo”. Mi hermano nació ciego y a los 21 años reconoció que era gay. Hay
mucho más en la atracción sexual que sólo los aspectos visuales. En la escuela comenzó a notar que le atraían más los chicos que las
chicas: sus voces más profundas, su firmeza, su olor masculino.

También se dio cuenta de que las personas interesadas en cosas de chicos, como los deportes, las armas, los videojuegos, etc. Eran
más interesantes y atractivas que las personas interesadas por las cosas estereotípicas de las mujeres. Fue a un instituto para ciegos
y estuvo en el equipo de lucha libre. Ahí fue cuando descubrió plenamente su atracción por otros chicos, con el contacto físico en el
colchón de lucha.

2.- “Las voces de los chicos me parecieron atractivas”. Sinceramente, de la misma manera que una cualquier otra persona, escuché las
voces de los chicos y me parecieron atractivas. Aunque no pueda verlos físicamente, mentalmente puedo imaginar su aspecto. Me
quedé ciego a los 14 años, pero me di cuenta de que era gay cuando tenía 18.

3.- “El olor de los hombres me provoca una erección al instante”. Me gustaba la forma de los hombres y el tacto del cuerpo y las manos
de un hombre. Me gustan los músculos de un hombre y me gustaba, cuando podía ver algunos, los hombres bronceados porque eran
más fáciles de ver.

Pero, básicamente, mi atracción depende de la voz, la construcción del cuerpo, mi tacto y lo bien que pueda comunicarse de forma
verbal y textual. Obviamente, el olor es un factor primordial. El olor de ciertos hombres me provoca una erección al instante.

4.- “No necesito ver un pene para saber que no quiero tocar uno”. Acabo de enviar un mensaje a mi novia que es ciega. Puede ver
formas, tonos de luz y oscuridad, pero no las caras ni los rasgos. Ella me dijo: “No he tenido que ver un pene para saber que no quiero
tocar uno. ¿Vas a decirme que esa gente no sabía qué tipo de genitales les gustaban hasta que vieron a alguien desnudo? Es un poco
raro.

5.- “Tuve una sensación extraña al abrazar a un compañero”. Sabía que era muy diferente a los otros niños y me sentía terriblemente
solo. No encajaba. Todos los chicos se interesaban en los deportes, yo no.

Algunos hablaban de chicas, pero como soy ciego de nacimiento y nadie había hablado de sexo conmigo, no sabía de lo que hablaban.
Me da vergüenza reconocer que no sabía la diferencia entre hombres y mujeres, excepto que las mujeres eran más amables conmigo.

Compré libros en braille sobre sexo, los leí y fue entonces cuando tuve una vaga comprensión del tema. Me di cuenta de que tenía una
sensación extraña cuando estaba cerca de gente de mi propio sexo que no tenía cuando estaba con mujeres.

6.- “No es tan diferente como la gente cree”. He sido ciego desde que nací y extremadamente gay ¿Sabes cuándo ves a alguien y te
atrae? Pues es algo así pero sin poder ver.

7.- “La ausencia de vista hace interesante la atracción”. La parte de la atracción es la más eficiente en la ausencia de la vista. Lo que te
queda es su voz, olor, el sentir su forma física y otros criterios de compatibilidad como la inteligencia, el sentido del humor y el sistema
de creencias.

8.- No conocía la diferencia entre mujeres y hombres. Cuando tenía 11 o 12 años, realmente no entendía la diferencia entre chicos y
chicas. Para mí eran iguales, salvo que los chicos me excitaban y las chicas no. No conocía las partes del cuerpo, como pechos,
vagina, pene, y sin embargo me sentía atraído por personas del mismo sexo.



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