Susan Krieger – a woman to remember- lesbian scholar who lost her sight to find vision


In my quest to find amazing women to whom, perhaps life was less kind regarding their health, and more fortunate to find wonderful people in their lives and to have managed to create for themselves wonderful careers too and also, happen to be gay, I found beautiful characters and amazing stories.

This is one of them.

Susan Krieger is a sociologist and writer, teaches in the Program in Feminist Studies at Stanford University. Her books include Things No Longer There: A Memoir of Losing Sight and Finding VisionThe Family Silver: Essays on Relationships among WomenSocial Science and the Self: Personal Essays on an Art FormThe Mirror Dance: Identity in a Women’s Community; and Hip Capitalism.


Miss Krieger happens to get out of the closed and be an open lesbian and afterwards to  have lost sight. I loved how she found her way in this world proud and somehow people seemed kinder, they took lesbianism easier because of her lost of sight. And her guide dog, Teela, is amazing too. In the following interview she speaks of her coming out of the closet, her losing sight and all her wonderful books.

„Being out of the closet was risky and Susan experienced some taunting, yet it did yield some good as well. When Susan arrived at Stanford and asked if there were any other lesbian faculty members, the answer was, “just one other.” Later, Susan found herself knocking at professor Estelle Frieddman’s door. The two soon became partners, and they now have been together for 30 years.

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When Susan began to lose her sight in the mid 90s to a condition called birdshot retinochoroidopathy, it was Estelle who helped Susan through the transition. “Hannah,” as Estelle is known in Susan’s books, encouraged her partner to write and served as her first editor. This wonderful display of support resulted in Things No Longer There, and her latest book, Traveling Blind, in which “Hannah,” Susan, and her guide dog Teela travel to many parts of the country.

In the GLBT community, labels come naturally and words like “bottom,” “butch” or “fem” are casually exchanged, yet Susan discovered that the blind label was easier to go public with. When she was sighted, hearing occasional name calling while walking down the street was not uncommon. However, once she started to carry a white cane and later to walk with a guide dog, people treated her more kindly. “Blindness definitely has its own set of problems, but it is easier for people to accept,” says Susan. While doing a radio interview for Things No Longer There, which is mostly about lesbianism and touches lightly on vision loss, Susan was not surprised that the radio program focused entirely on her blindness.


Susan’s first book, The Mirror Dance, captures the fears of a lesbian community in a Midwestern town. Susan says, “I interviewed about sixty women and almost all feared being outed at work.”  This is a concern she admits may be less common in our modern society, but was definitely a big part of the Lesbian community not so long ago.

In a more recent book, Things No Longer There, Susan vividly relives her experience at a camp she attended as a teenage girl that was run by two lesbians. Although she did not know about their sexuality then, in retrospect she could remember Ms. Sandy’s unused bed, which was always cluttered with papers and projects. In the first chapter, she dives deeper into the dynamics and idiosyncrasies that made up the camp organizer’s relationship. She writes, “They never arrived together as if to insist they came from different lives.” The camp had such great impact on her that Susan wishes she could have been able to see the camp owners as an adult to tell them how much she loved the place and that she was lesbian too.

Susan also analyzes her own fears, what she calls “lesbo-phobias,” in another piece called The Family Silver. In this narrative, Susan discusses the lesbo-phobias pertaining to being a lesbian teacher. She writes, “I was aware of the consequences of touching students to say ‘great work’ or ‘nice,’ and always kept my hands to my sides.” The world that existed outside the “heterosexual veneer,” as Susan refers to it, was to be protected and kept a secret in those times.”

In a statement that illustrates the fearlessness embodied in the colorful LGBT community, Susan proudly claims herself as both Lesbian and blind.


„From the Author

Traveling Blind: Adventures in Vision with a Guide Dog by My Side is a book about a special time in my life–when I first received my guide dog Teela and traveled to the Southwest desert and on city streets discovering the world anew. My partner, Estelle Freedman, whom I call “Hannah” in the book, shared my adventures and this exciting time, exploring not only the intriguing landscapes we visited, but also the issues of vision and interdependence that my failing sight raised for us both. Like me, Estelle was delighted and grateful to have Teela with us as we added new possibilities to our life together, becoming a threesome, learning how to cross streets and to navigate darkness and light, developing new responses to our needs.

The lessons of “traveling blind” are many, quite a few of them represented in this book, and none more important than the sharing of the travel–of the search for a mountain in a vast desert plain, my attempts to see luminarias in the dark of night, or the challenges of navigating through busy airports with poor vision and a large golden dog. With this book, I share the path with the reader, with all those whose lives require new vision–new ways of integrating sight, sound, mind and feeling.

„Reviews of Traveling Blind: Adventures in Vision with a Guide Dog by My Side

“An Unforgettable Experience

“This is ultimately a book about how we agree to see the world, and what we agree to ignore, wherever we are on the spectrum of sightedness. As the author takes to the road, we come to understand that to ‘see’ is some combination of perception, memory, and desire. As Krieger explores the commitments between humans and animals, she shows traveling as a challenge for both, but worth it all the time. In crystal-clear writing she tells us what to watch out for, what to be surprised by seeing, shows us the unquestioned ability to see should be questioned after all. Traveling Blind is an unforgettable experience, and at the same time a great read.”–Mary Felstiner, Author, Out Of Joint: A Private & Public Story of Arthritis

“A True Love Story”

“Traveling Blind is a true love story between a professor, her guide dog Teela, and her life partner Hannah. Susan Krieger writes the book as a feminist ethnographer taking a personal journey into blindness. Knowing her vision is failing on an almost daily basis, the author struggles with her need to maintain independence, deal with societal attitudes about her as a person who does not look blind, and her need to imprint on her memory the visualization of the holiday luminarias she loves. Exploring for, but fighting against, the impending shift in her life blindness will bring, she relies more on tactile cues and begins to appreciate the positive attention Teela brings to her life. Using the phrase ‘broken eyesight,’ she describes how walking with a guide dog, one walks differently; having partial vision, one sees differently. This highly personal account of the struggle with, and slow acceptance of, her blindness is a must read for those interested in the human condition.”–Ed Eames and Toni Eames

The late Ed Eames, Ph.D. and Toni Eames, M.S. are co-founders of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (, a cross disability consumer advocacy organization for people partnered with guide, hearing, and service dogs. Like Dr. Krieger, Dr. Eames lost his vision in adulthood, while Mrs. Eames came to blindness as a young child.

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