Closing remark: It is very heartwarming that my article, which was written 17 years ago, still resonates with people. The problem I have had and, I'm going to be totally honest, is that when people read my article, many like it (and that is wonderful) but they don't take the next step to try to get to know me. That's why, when my friend u/runbrownmanrun suggested an AMA, I decided I was going to do it. I threw all caution to the wind and I hoped I would not receive unkind responses. I am truly moved and gratified by the interest the AMA has generated. I believe that most people, whether they are gay or not, are good caring sensitive people. That belief keeps me going. I hope things will improve for me. I want to thank everyone who has responded and I look forward to hearing from many of you. I also want to give a shoutout to my friend u/runbrownmanrun who has made this possible.

Note from u/runbrownmanrun: I got in touch with Bob because of a service I'm developing for managing seniors' health and well-being. It will automatically detect emergencies, manage short/long-term care, and keep helpers and loved ones in the loop. If you are a senior who could use something like this or have interacted with such seniors before, PM me - I would love to hear about your experience!

Cyberhugs to you all, Bob

Hi Reddit, my name is Robert, but you can call me Bob!

A few weeks ago, an AskReddit asked 'Blind gay people of Reddit, how did you know you were gay?' (https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/6bz2ej/blind_gay_people_of_reddit_how_did_you_know_you/). In response, u/Costco1L posted an essay I wrote in 2000 called 'Being Blind and Gay' (http://www.bentvoices.org/bentvoices/feinstein-blindandgay.htm).

I had never heard of Reddit before and didn't think many people would read my essay, so imagine my surprise when u/runbrownmanrun told me over 21,000 of you liked it! He told what an AMA is and, because of all the interest and follow-up questions my essay's gotten, I think it's a great way to tell you more about me. I also hope this can help me get to know new people, so please message me directly too!

u/runbrownmanrun will be reading me the questions and typing my responses verbatim. He and I met because he's creating a service that can help elderly people who are often alone like me stay healthy and get help if they can't call for it themselves. If you have any questions for him too, feel free to ask!

Proof: http://imgur.com/a/qR4GH

Comments: 74 • Responses: 25  • Date: 

TheRavenousRabbit39 karma

  • What made you realize you were gay?

  • What is the first thing that makes you attracted to a man? His voice? Smell?

  • What is your favorite food?

harlynn194977 karma

(Answering in order)

I realized I was gay when I found that when I hugged a guy or an older male, I had a strong attraction to that person. Whereas when I hugged a woman, I did not feel anything at all. I love women as friends, but hugging them is kind of like hugging an inanimate object for me.

His voice, his smell (a nice cologne) and when I give him a hug. For me, I have to have some kind of a physical contact like a hug before I know if I am attracted to the person. Some people attract me more than others and because I can't see, it must be something to do with pheromones that I can't describe. I have met guys who are wonderful but I don't have an attraction to them and I don't know why.

I love Italian food like lasagna, which is probably why I am such a big guy.

Daaamnmylife36 karma

Have you ever personally experienced homophobia and what was it like?

harlynn1949181 karma

I usually am pretty careful who I tell that I am gay. For me to be doing this AMA is quite a big step but I'm hoping to make more contacts/friends.

The one incident I had was I was walking with a sighted friend and holding his arm so he could guide me. I had my guide dog with me but I was holding his leash and not his harness. All of a sudden, some kids started yelling "fag, fag, fag" and began throwing bottles at us. My friend said "hey, my friend is blind!" As soon as they heard that, they stopped and apologized and one of them said, "I'm sorry - I thought you were a fag." That was the worst incident that ever happened to me. That was about 10-12 years ago.

ElNido144 karma

Damn that was hard to read.

"HES GAY GET HIM!"

"Oh wait he's blind? That checks in with my morality, let him through boys."

Chuckles7745911 karma

I think you misunderstood. (Or maybe I did)

The kids thought they were gay because they were holding hands. Once he said he was blind, the kids thought that he was not gay, and the holding hands was explained.

So it wasn't that he was blind, it was that he had an "excuse" to hold a guy's hand.

202Ultra5 karma

He said that he was holding onto his sighted friend's arm so that he could be guided. How did you interpret that as they were holding each other's hands and used the blindness as an excuse?

harlynn19493 karma

You are right. That's exactly what happened. I was holding my friend's arm and my dog was walking on my right side.

gusmoreno1534 karma

What do you do or did for a living?

harlynn194971 karma

I used to work in a school with kids who didn't speak English well. I did that for 20 and a half years and I took an early retirement in 1995. I think it was interesting for the kids to have a blind teacher and I had a dog and they all loved my dog.

TheBigDinklage1 karma

I heard you're not suppose to pet other peoples guide dogs. Is this true?

harlynn19493 karma

When a dog is guiding a blind person, the dog shouldn't be distracted. However, I was much less strict than many blind people and if someone wanted to pet my dog I would stop walking and my dog knew he was no longer guiding me and I would let the person pet the dog. For example, if I was in a restaurant and the dog was lying next to me and someone asked if they could pet the dog, I would say yes. But when I was actually walking with my dog I would say no because the dog wouldn't be able to pay attention to what he was doing.

KahootFanboy6932 karma

Are you in any current relationship, and how is it? And you also mentioned about a service helping lonely elders in need, how much has this service offered for you?

harlynn194948 karma

No, I must be honest and tell you I've never had a partner or been in a long-term relationship.

My friend who is doing the AMA is involved in this project and I think it is something that's really needed. In my present situation, I have helpers who would come and help me for a few hours a day, so I have not availed myself of it at this time. If you have more questions about it though, contact my friend u/runbrownmanrun

the_schmeez29 karma

Alright, here's a good one for you. What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want the future generations to remember you when they inevitably come across this AMA in the future?

harlynn194966 karma

I want them to remember me as a person who does his best to help others to understand what it is like to be blind and gay. Also, I hope they will consider me a kind person. I also hope that the fact that I have never seen will make people understand that being gay is not dependent on sight and is not a choice. I know this because I didn't even know the difference between boys and girls when I was growing up. I know that sounds strange, but it is the absolute truth.

the_schmeez19 karma

That is beautiful man. Truly beautiful. Thank you

harlynn194917 karma

Thank you so much for your kind words

Cresheimking22 karma

[deleted]

harlynn194940 karma

(Answering in order)

I do not have any racial factors - race is not important to me. I judge people by somewhat intrinsic qualities - kindness, gentleness, people who are not afraid to hug, who are not afraid to touch in a kind way. Those are the things that are important to me.

I have no strong opinion on that except that I have no respect for someone who immediately dislikes someone because of their race

I guess many people have preferences - some like heavy people, some like thin people. For me, I tend to like people who are on the heavy side but that is not always necessary. I tend to like people who are a little hairy, but again that's in no way written in stone.

n3aak20 karma

It seems like more than any other group, gay men are focused on looks. How have you dealt with this as a blind man? What advice do you have for younger gay guys dealing with body-image issues?

harlynn194941 karma

I have gone to gay groups in the past that are for chubby gay guys like myself. I have had a difficult time meeting people. I think, sadly, my blindness trumps everything else. I do think that looks perhaps play too large a role with gay people in general. I suppose this is difficult to talk about because I have never seen. But I am attracted to things like kindness, sensitivity, a nice way of touching a guy on the shoulder to make a point and it doesn't really matter to me if a person is good looking. I suppose if I met someone who is so ugly that people gasped when they saw us, that would make a difference :) But seriously, for me, I think because of my situation, I am more interested in things that don't necessarily have to do with looks. I should mention however that if someone doesn't smell clean or if they smoke, this is a turnoff for me.

I wish younger gay guys would realize that there are things that are more important than looks. After all, as we get old, our looks will start to fade no matter who we are. I think it's important for young gay people to assess their talents and strengths and not put all of their eggs in the "looks basket".

[deleted]0 karma

[deleted]

harlynn194914 karma

Some people are more comfortable with blindness than others and, if you get to know a blind person, your initial reservations can change.

yosoyines16 karma

Hi Bob! I have more questions regarding you being blind than you being gay, since I only see with one eye, and I always have a remaining fear of getting blind if something happens with my seeing eye.

(Pardon my English, it's not my native language)

So

  1. How do you measure little distances, like filling a glass of water? Or grabbing such glass without spilling it?

  2. Do you find current technology, such as windows voice reading useful or needs to be improved much? (I'm an IT teacher and some of my students ask this, wouldn't know how to answer since I don't use it)

  3. Related to previous one, is there a phone os or apps that you find more useful than others?

Thanks for your time!!

harlynn194917 karma

Hi! Please don't worry about losing sight in your remaining eye as it will probably will not happen.

  1. In my situation, I was born blind so I learned to make certain adaptations. For example, when I pour something, I put my finger in the glass and I pour until the liquid hits my finger. Of course when I'm pouring something hot this can be a bit painful :) As for knocking things over, I tend to reach for things in slow-motion and I usually don't have that problem unless I forget that I left a glass some place.

  2. Well, I am really a dinosaur when it comes to technology. Believe it or not, I am still using DOS. I use DOS with a screen-reader software called Vocal-eyes so for my needs, this work very well because I use it mainly to receive and send emails. However, if i want to use a website like Reddit, I need help. So that is why, when I get to know people, I ask that they email me. My friend u/runbrownmanrun is making it possible for me to participate in this AMA. He is reading me the questions and I am dictating my answers and he is typing them. I could not do this without his help. But if I do make contact with people who are willing to email me, that I could do on my own. So to make a long story short, I'm afraid I can't give a very good answer because I don't use the latest technology.

  3. I don't have a smartphone with a particular OS or use any apps

I would be interested in talking with you privately, so send me a private message and perhaps we can exchange emails. What country are you from? I love different languages

WorkDish12 karma

Are there any blind LGBT resources or activity groups in your city? If not, maybe you can start one!

harlynn194916 karma

I am interested in meeting gay people in general, not just gay people who are blind. I am not really the kind of person who is good at starting groups. There have been some groups for disabled gay people but I don't think there are any right now that would be good for me.

voodooxpizza11 karma

What's the hardest part of your average day?

harlynn194917 karma

Going about my regular routines - getting dressed, bathing, etc. - is not difficult. I guess sometimes I feel lonely and that is why I started hiring people to help me. It has worked out very well because many of my helpers have become friends. I know I am paying them but many people pay for help (i.e. getting a house painted, having a dogwalker, etc.)

By the way, it may interest readers to know that most of my helpers are not gay. I have a few gay helpers but more are straight.

Gehenna899 karma

Hello Bob!

I've noticed recently that there are many gays who feel lonely in their life, despite the fact we now have much more tools to connect with each other than your generation had. Mental health issues are still a big problem among LGBT community, despite the fact that world is getting more accepting for us.

I guess you've had a fair share of bad luck in life, if it is okay to say like that, but what is your fuel for life? What keeps you going?

I read your story, thanks for sharing it with us! Regards from Finland, Europe.

harlynn194913 karma

Wow, I've heard the Finns are very lovely people but I've never met one till now!

I think one of the things that keeps me going is I hope that, if I put myself out there, like I'm doing with the help of u/runbrownmanrun, people will respond and I will make some interesting and meaningful contacts.

Oxdans8 karma

Hi Bob,

Flirting can be quite visually based, what are some queues you give out when flirting? Or do you tend to be more direct?

Also, what are some queues you'd like sighted people would give you?

All the best.

harlynn194917 karma

Gosh, I'm not a very good flirter. I guess, if appropriate, touch a guy's hand or touch his shoulder. But it would depend where I am and if I thought he would have an okay response. I might say something like "You have a very nice speaking voice" or "I like your cologne". If I'm really turned on to a guy, I would say "would you mind if I see what you look like?" meaning of course I'd like to feel what his arms are like, his chest, etc. But usually I just try to make comments like "you seem like a really nice person", "I hope we can meet again", etc.

If a sighted person touched my shoulder or my hand or perhaps said "it's really nice talking with you. I hope we can get to know each other better" then that would be a sign to me that they were interested in me. But again, it's sometimes hard to know because it could just be a friendly gesture. I'm afraid sighted people would have to be a bit more direct, like "man it's nice to talk to you. Maybe we could get to know each other better, if you know what I mean :)". It's so strange because flirting is so visual that I'm really not good at it. And the problem is, if I were to go to a gay bar, which I don't do anymore, I wouldn't know who was available and who wasn't or if people were interested in me or not. So it's easier for me to meet people by email or maybe if I speak to someone on the telephone, things like that.

MinorSonsofMary4 karma

Firstly, thank you for doing this! It is brave and inspiring: allowing yourself to be vulnerable, showing an example of an older adult willing to engage and grow, and sharing what life is like as a person with different abilities. Also, thanks to your friend for obviously being super chill.

As to my question, men are stereotypically seen as highly visual creatures. We are typically better with visual-spacial memory; we are on average more focused on our visual sense.

As a sexual human person, for me, feeling sexy is significantly connected to what I see with my eyes and what I see in my mind with my minds eye (which is obviously connected to images and values I have catalogued with my eyes over a lifetime).

Presuming you identify as a sexual person, what makes you feel sexy?

How do you go about feeling sexy?

Are you still influence by the parameters of aesthetic value created by a predominantly sighted society?

harlynn194910 karma

Thank for your kind words at the beginning of your question.

I find this difficult to answer because I guess I don't really think of myself as a sexy person. I feel aroused by things but that may be different. For example, a certain tone of voice - I might ask someone to talk in a certain way or sing something and that would arouse me - but my actually feeling sexy to others, I don't know. People who like big guys have sometimes told me "you have a beautiful ass" and that makes me smile but I don't dress in a particular way or do anything really. I try to wear nice cologne and be reasonably well-dressed. But I don't really think of myself as sexy and I wouldn't know what to do to make myself more sexy (i.e. walk in a certain way or perhaps have a certain facial expression). Because I have never seen, my facial expressions are sometimes stiff. For example, if someone tells me to look happy or look sad, I can't really do that. My expressions are what my face does on its own. People tell me I smile but I couldn't smile on command. I couldn't look angry on command. I hope this answers your question - I don't really know what I could do to come across as more sexy.

Johnnydagger3 karma

When did you find out you were gay?

harlynn19495 karma

I'm not really sure. I think I had a pretty good idea by the time I was 11 or 12. I think I may have suspected something a little before but my memory isn't too clear.

report-zyther643 karma

do you have a favourite dinosaur?

harlynn194924 karma

I'm afraid not, I don't know too much about them. But I know that I am one when it comes to technology :)

NoWordsException3 karma

Why is your nickname Bob and not Rob?

harlynn19495 karma

I guess I like Bob better :)

MRdaBakkle2 karma

Did you ever come out to family (parents, brothers, sisters ect.) If so do you feel that the experience was any different for you, than for a sighted gay person?

harlynn19492 karma

To tell you the truth, I never came out to my family. After my parents died, I mentioned to one or two cousins that I was gay. Because I am not involved in a relationship with anyone I don't mention that I am gay except to certain people who I know will be okay with it. I have some people who help me who probably would feel uncomfortable if they knew I was gay. Things would be different if I had a special friend, but this is not the case.

harlynn19491 karma

I never came out to my parents although I think perhaps my mother might have suspected. When my parents passed away I came out to a few cousins who I'm no longer in touch with. I'm careful who I tell that I am gay because some people who help me might feel uncomfortable and it is not really relevant that they know. I guess things would be different if I had a special friend.

PornoPaul1 karma

Have you ever met bias within the gay community?

harlynn19492 karma

I am not sure I understand your question but I can tell you that many people don't want to get to know me because I am blind. Some people don't want to get to know me becasue I am a chubb. And probably some people don't want to get to know me because I am getting old :-)

Gickerific-24 karma

How did you write that note? Checkmate.

Also how can you prove you're gay? Checkmate2

harlynn194913 karma

I have a computer with speech and, as I type on the keyboard, it speaks what I have written. I was friendly with the person who edited Bent Voices (the website where the essay was posted) and he posted it for me.

I can't but I am. How can you prove your sexuality?

Gickerific9 karma

I was joking on both counts, sorry if it didn't come across that way.

harlynn194911 karma

Thanks for your kind words. all is forgiven.