I've known that I'm colorblind (as most people would say) since the age of 15 when I was doing things along with all the other 15 year olds in my high school to get a learner's permit to drive. I can still remember how embarrassed I was when the instructor said -- in what seemed like a very loud voice -- that I shouldn't worry about being colorblind, just remember that the red light is at the top and the green light is at the bottom. It had never occurred to me until that moment that my vision was so very different from others.
Don't get me wrong: I knew that I didn't see colors as well as others. That had been obvious for most of my life, when they would not understand which car I meant when I said the dark brown car. But, that just led to me using different terminology to discuss things. For example, I would never refer to something by color, but rather by location or size or whatever. But I never would have imagined that someone would think I wouldn't be able to tell a red traffic light from a green traffic light!
My color deficiency bothered me quite a bit for many years, but over time, I've come to terms with it, and even embrace it in much the same way that being gay means that I'm subjected to discrimination and hate, but it also brings with it some real joys. I'm not talking about Mark here (although that is one of the nice side-benefits of being gay). I'm talking about really understanding that folks are different. When I was a straight white middle class male, I was part of the privileged majority. I took a lot of things for granted. Coming out and being hated just for being gay taught me a small portion of what other minority folks have felt for years. I still have no idea of what it must feel like to be a woman trying to make it in a computer company where some people will discount her work simply because she's a woman, or how it really feels to be a young black man targeted by the cops. But, I do know the fear of walking down a street not knowing if the car slowing down is full of people ready to jump out and beat me up or just to ask directions, or the knowledge that some people hate
me and would be happy if that carload of people did jump out and assault me. That's something my brothers or male cousins have no knowledge of. It's easier for me to empathize with minorities because of being gay and what I've gone through.
Similarly, I've known most of my life that I see things differently in a real physical sense. This has made me more aware that others also probably see the world differently from each other. And knowing that people see things differently in a purely physical sense makes it easier to really believe that people "see" the world differently because of different perceptions or expectations or background. I think that it is all too easy for those who are "normal" to believe that others perceive/see/think the way that they do.
All this has come up recently because I just learned about a company
that makes expensive sunglasses that purportedly help "colorblind" people better distinguish colors. And now I find myself very torn about whether or not I should spend that money. I wonder if this is how deaf people feel when thinking about cochlear implants: is missing out on colors really so important that I should spend money on it? Is this just a way to make money by making people feel like they are missing out? I've lived my life seeing things the way that I do, and basically doing just fine. Would my life be substantially enhanced by seeing more colors when outside (they are talking about also doing indoor glasses, but for now, it's mostly just for outdoors)? Is being closer to normal really something that I want to strive for?
I do think that if I were much younger, then I would get the sunglasses; I would probably enjoy seeing colors for many years (and yes, I do see the irony of saying that it was good to really understand that everyone sees things differently when wearing such glasses as a child might have kept me from learning that). But, at my age? Will my life really be enhanced by seeing a red flag waving 100 yards away, when now it only jumps out at me when I get closer?
In case you aren't sure, I'll answer the subject question for you: No, you don't see what I see. And you probably don't see what anyone else sees, either.