Hi my name is Karan Nagrani. I’m from Perth, Western Australia. My whole life I’ve had to come out of two closets: “I’m gay” and “I’m blind.”
Believe it or not, the blind closet has been a lot more complicated. I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of eleven. It’s a genetic, degenerative eye disease that leads to blindness.
At the age of 36, I have less than three degrees of peripheral vision, very severe night blindness to point where I almost can’t function without assistance, and some hearing loss that makes it necessary to wear hearing aids.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a different journey for everyone, but, in my case, with how fast my vision is deteriorating, I’m preparing myself to be completely blind in a couple of years.
Coming out – and coming into my disability
Why the disability closet has been harder to come out of is because my vision has deteriorated over time. In my twenties, I managed to resist and, to an extent, get away with not using a cane. I was in denial. And being a part of the gay world, where there is so much emphasis on the way you look, I felt like a cane would make me look ugly. Also, at that time my hearing loss wasn’t as noticeable.
I grew up in a culture where we had to hide our flaws, especially when it came to a disability. From the time I was diagnosed to my late teens, I was told not to tell anyone
about my disability. So I grew up hiding my sexuality and my disability.
As you can imagine that takes a big toll on your mental health.
I lived in denial for so long. I chose to work in the creative field of marketing, graphic design and filmmaking. I put my heart and soul into my career and wanted to do something that no one thought I’d be able to do with my disability.
I worked on that field for almost 14 years and say with pride that I accomplished some amazing things. My work started to get noticed and that gave me a high – it made me push myself even more, even though seeing was getting harder and harder. Finally, two years ago I had no l choice but to retire from that field, though I still do it as a hobby now.
Where do I go from here?
My aim now is to raise awareness, but do it in a fun way. I’m using my graphics and filming skills to show traditionally sighted people what it’s like to live with RP.
I understand people have a lot of questions: my eyes look normal, but I have a cane. I’m blind, yet I manage to make eye contact sometimes. It confuses people – sometimes I get interrogated almost and I feel like I have to convince someone that I am genuinely blind. But what I don’t like is when people pity me and just assume that my life must be miserable.
I am married to David, the love of my life, and I have the most loving and supportive family. I have an amazing close-knit circle of friends and am fortunate to work in a place where people love and respect me.
It can be very scary living with RP, and I go through phases where life gets dark (pun intended), but this is my reality. There’s no cure, so I make the most of what I have, show gratitude for everything I have and have found a new passion to raise awareness.