June Men In Motion | Liam Cruz

A frontal headshot of Liam who has dark curly hair and dark-framed eyeglasses.

Men In Motion | Liam Cruz

Contents:

Editor’s Note:

As the founder of Bold Blind Beauty, I think it’s important to take every opportunity possible to reiterate what we believe. June is Pride Month and I can’t think of a better time to stress the importance of allyship. While I am not a member of the LGBTQ+ community I embrace those who are.

Each of us is different and being able to accept people where they are for who they are is inclusion. I believe our mission of “Improving humanity by changing the way we perceive one another” can be accomplished one person at a time. To all of my LGBTQ+ friends, I see you, I love you, and more importantly, I stand with you! ~Steph

Today’s Man In Motion Liam Cruz is so articulate and has great insight for a 17-year-old. He talks about topics nearly all of us can relate to and his summary will knock your socks off! What I like most about Liam’s post is his strength in vulnerability. As with all of our 2021 Beyond Sight series, the YouTube video is included along with the transcript for those who prefer to read. Enjoy!

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover features a frontal headshot of Liam who has dark curly hair and dark-framed eyeglasses. The text reads: “Liam Cruz | And while it's going to be scary, and it's going to be challenging, you are also beautiful for being different | Men In Motion."

Men In Motion YouTube Video

Getting To Know Liam Cruz

Hi, my name is Liam Cruz. I’m 17 years old, I live in Flushing, New York and I also have Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). First, I just like to say thank you to Bold Blind Beauty for letting me tell my story and I really hope that whoever sees this can take something out of it.

Leber’s is a genetic disorder that affects the retina. Some side effects include photophobia, color blindness, nearsightedness, and also a loss of depth perception. For anyone who isn’t sure what photophobia is, it is extreme light sensitivity.

Everyone with Leber’s is affected differently, and their vision loss ranges, of course, by person to person. For me, I’m really nearsighted, I’m colorblind, and I’m also really light sensitive. Depending on the time of day and the area, I can have really bad depth perception. So occasionally, I’ll travel with the cane, but it’s not very often.

Also, because of Leber’s I am legally blind, which means that I cannot drive this is really important to me because it affects where I live and where I will live in the future. Since I can’t drive I need to live in a very accessible place. And I think it’s one of the reasons why I’m so grateful that I’ve lived in New York City for most of my life.

New York is really accessible for people who are visually impaired, we have the subways, and we have the buses. And we also have special cab services called Access-A-Ride [Paratransit Service]. So in terms of independence, that’s something I don’t really worry about. It is something I worry about for my future, though, because when it comes to thinking about where I want to live, I really have to take into consideration if that place is going to be accessible for me or not.

Preparing For University

Liam is sitting at the piano intently playing a piece. He's casually dressed in a red shirt and jeans.

Currently, I’m a high school senior, and in September, I’ll be starting at NYU as a dramatic writing major. It honestly took me a while to figure out what it was I wanted to major in and even right now, I’m not 100% sure I want to do this specific major.

Since I was little I loved the arts, whether it was music or writing, or performing—I loved it. But because of my vision, it was always a question of whether I could or couldn’t do certain things as a career.

At the start of high school, I wanted to be an animator, and then I switched to a graphic designer. And then I went back to an animator and then I thought about the music major. And then I went to writing and so on and so forth.

Until pretty close to the application deadline, I decided to go for dramatic writing. The reason for this was because despite my confusion of what I wanted to major in one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to tell stories.

I always wanted to tell stories to people, I wanted to share my creations I wanted to bring them to life. I just never knew how, or forbid I even thought about creating video games, but I just wasn’t sure how. Due to my vision, I was also worried that an art heavy major would just be out of my reach.

Self-Awareness In Action

Again, I’m very nearsighted. So seeing things on paper can be kind of straining on my eyes. When I thought about writing, it was a lot easier to be able to write. And I don’t want to say that as in, I’m just not taking a challenge. But I know my physical limits and an art major would be a bit pushing my physical limit of what I could actually do.

And since I really loved writing, and I really love telling stories, I thought, why not. It’s a perfect compromise. It’s something that I visually could handle. And something that would still mean I could learn how to tell people stories, that and maybe one day, just one day, I might even write a script for a game. So that’s something.

Growing up with a mother who was legally blind and going to school for the visually impaired, I was really surrounded with a lot of support. I think at a young age, I was able to come to the understanding that I was different from other people and that was okay.

A lot of my classmates since they were legally blind as well are able to support me too. And I think having those students around me was really helpful as a young kid because I got to see people just like me.

Going To School With Sight Loss

Since vision loss is a range for different people, I also got to understand different people’s situations that were not the same as mine. What I didn’t see was that not everyone felt the same.

When I left the school for the visually impaired and started going to a public high school, I was met with a lot of kids who didn’t understand what a visual impairment was. They had never even met someone who had a visual impairment, or who is legally blind. And suddenly, that was really scary.

Growing up with teachers who already understood my accommodations, and students who weren’t surprised by the fact that I couldn’t see that well, really kind of made me close minded as much as it made me open minded because I thought that everyone would be just as welcoming. But that wasn’t the case. I had to learn how to advocate for myself.

And I really owe it to my mom for helping me since me and her both have Leber’s. She really understood what I was going through, and she kind of prepared me for having to fend for myself.

When I went into public school, I had to explain to my teachers, my nearsightedness. I had to explain to them that, despite me having glasses, I wouldn’t be able to see what was on the board without using a magnifier or phone. I had to tell my classmates that I couldn’t see them in the hallways and that they had to call my name or tap me on the shoulder.

And at first, I was honestly really scared, and it felt really lonely. I didn’t have any friends who understood me like I did in my past school. And while there were two other girls in my school who are visually impaired, we shared no classes together.

The Continuing Learning Process

And in high school in New York City, my school had around 3,800 kids, honestly, just having two kids who weren’t even in the same class as you felt like they weren’t even there. I really owe it to my mom, and even just my teachers who were so understanding, and it really helped me feel more comfortable.

But I think even now, as I’m a senior who’s about to graduate, it’s still a learning process. In college, I’m still going to have to come to terms with the fact that I’m going to have to explain my vision to people again and again and again, and that it’s okay, that I’m different from the rest of my peers or the rest of my friends.

Now that I’m going into college, I think this is the absolute perfect time for me to figure out where I fit in and how to settle in my own skin. Being born with a visual impairment and living with this my entire life, I’ve been through ups and downs. While I’ve been able to gather sort of confidence in the fact that I’m different, I’ve also been able to realize that I’m insecure about the weaknesses it gives me and that I still compare myself to my peers, even as I enter college.

I really hope that in the future, I can start learning, and really feeling comfortable. And not just that I have a disability, but that everyone else is going to know that too. And while I’m working on it, I’m really proud that I’ve gotten this far.

A Beautiful Sign-Off

Before I go, I just want to leave everyone with a little message. Whether you are disabled or not, whether you are legally blind or not, I just want you to know that beauty is not just about whether you fit in or not. It’s not just about the outside. If you’re different, that’s beautiful too. And remember that take pride in that. Because it’s okay to be different. And while it’s going to be scary, and it’s going to be challenging, you are also beautiful for being different.

Thank you again for everyone who took the time to listen, and I really appreciate Bold Blind Beauty for letting me tell my story.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Connecting With Liam

Image Descriptions:

  • The header is a duplicate of the photo used for the magazine cover described below.
  • Beyond Sight Magazine Cover features a frontal headshot of Liam who has dark curly hair and dark-framed eyeglasses. The text reads: “Liam Cruz | And while it’s going to be scary, and it’s going to be challenging, you are also beautiful for being different | Men In Motion.”
  • Liam is sitting at the piano intently playing a piece. He’s casually dressed in a red shirt and jeans.

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