Marginalized Margins

The most important thing to know and understand about the marginalized in this culture is that we have much narrower margins than normative people who live in the lap of comfort.

The fact of our narrower margins is simple: we have to be much more circumspect, play our lives much more close to the vest, take smaller risks and always make sure we have what is vital to us protected.

People who live in the middle, deep in the heart of average, have plenty of room on each side to miss the mark, to take the blows.  They can get hit, swerve a little and have lots of space to recover stability, to get back to baseline.

Those of us who have been pushed to the margins, though, know that one or two swift hits and we are in the ditch, beyond recovery. We used up our margin of safety just to get where we need to be, so from here on out, it is a delicate and tender operation.

Trust is the first thing to go.   We can’t just let people in, make ourselves vulnerable to other people and then be sideswiped by them.   We have had that happen before and know how it almost pushed us over the edge.

It’s very hard to explain to mainstream people why we protect ourselves from taking what they see as just a mild and ordinary tap.  Why do we avoid the everyday thumps of life, the ones they take so easily and without any loss of footing?

We don’t do that because we are marginalized.   Society has told us that we have already given up seven lives just to be who we are, and the next one that we lose feels like it will be our last.   We feel, well, extraordinarily marginalized.

Even the most robust and celebrated among us understand the price of their marginalization.  The fact that they have fans and followers does not change the reality of marginalization.  Rather it just reminds us that it only takes one or two angry people to push us over a final edge.

The explicit training that tells you you are beyond the bounds, that you are overwhelming to most people, tends to stick with you for your entire lifetime.  You always have it in mind that you are just one step from disaster and destruction.

The sensation of swirling around the rim, just an instant from being flushed away, is one that very much sticks with you. Trying to explain it to someone who has never experienced it, well, that just seems to be impossible, which just intensifies the awareness that trying to find allies is far from possible.

We know what it is like to be so overwhelming, so intense, and so outside expectations that we are shut down before we even start.   It shouldn’t be surprising that knowledge affects our choices.   Being marginalized by those around us has an affect, a long term and profound affect.

The marginalized have the experience of being on the margins, away from the safety of the centre.   This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but for people in the mainstream, this truth is well outside their stream of consciousness.  The truth of our experience is well and truly on the margins of their awareness, you might say.

The marginalized feel pushed to the margins, without any space for grace or safety.   We learn to stay circumspect and protected, even the most beautiful and capable of us.

Is that any surprise?


The book “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” by Steve Silberman has gotten some very bad reviews on Amazon.

They are from people who just completely disagree with the author’s take that we shouldn’t work to make people on the autistic spectrum “normal” but rather to see their differences as just a way some people are, focusing on ways to open society to be more diverse and supportive.

The reviewers think this is just an asshole position, that autism means broken, that a cure is required or nothing but suffering will occur.

In the book, there is a telling line.   The wife of one of the original neurodiversity advocates chooses not to talk to the author because she is “sick of the infighting” in the communities around autism.

Infighting, it seems to me, is what humans love to do.   I have been reading some spaces on the internet discussing Christian belief and they are filled with infighting.

It has been ever thus, from the early pre-canon days of Christianity to Martin Luther and well beyond, different sects have different beliefs, splintering off on the basis of what can seem to an outsider to be small and irrelevant differences.

Even if the underlying reason for the fracture is personal power grabs, individuals wanting to assert power, even slight differences in doctrine allow for identification of an in group and an out group, setting up an us versus them battle line that feeds on identity politics and separating right from wrong, good from evil.

Infighting is powerful because those who don’t really want what we claim to have just don’t care about our assertions.   Nobody outside of the communities around autism really care much about how it is defined, but those inside have a fierce need to be correct and powerful within that space.

The victims of identity politics are mostly not the people we see as needing to understand what we are saying, they are the people we see as those who should be our allies but who are sabotaging the cause by their wrongheaded actions.   We become crabs in a barrel, not working together but rather infighting, using our energy to make sure others don’t get ahead of us in any way.

It’s easy to become sick of the infighting.   In fact, this is one of the premises of infighting, to clear the power field of those without the will and the bottle to battle for control of our structures.  Sure, this may, in the end, weaken our structures, damaging them so much they are ineffective, but for the winners of the infighting, they don’t care about the size of the heap, they only care that they are on top of it.

Infighting is by definition separating rather than connecting.  It paints those who want to be our allies as enemies, traitors to the cause who have to be re-educated or be purged.    It enforces doctrine over inclusion, detail over intention, fractionating power to let small people hold on tightly to their own small pieces of it.

Preachy Preachers find infighting a great path to status and power, assuring their followers that they are the virtuous ones and the more they are attacked, the more right they are. They carve out a space not by converting those they attack but by drawing in those who agree with their attacks.

I saw self-posted video of a “street preacher” standing in a parking lot haranguing a gay pride event, appearing to shout through a bullhorn to tell the gays and lesbians inside that they were going to hell and damnation unless they repented and followed his version of Biblical behaviour.

Needless to say, this harangue didn’t call one person to come to Jesus, renouncing their hard won pride and the love they had found for the harsh judgement of a raving preacher.   What it did do, of course, is let him cast the gays as sinners and himself as virtue incarnate, giving them what for.

Even as people cried out from their cars telling him to shut the fuck up, he could identify himself as martyred by those who refused to see the light, proving their essential wickedness and his saintliness.

His actions were to show him as a powerful infighter, willing to expose himself for the status of his church, facing down powerful sinners with only a bullhorn.   Huzzah and Hallelujah, our brother boldly preached the gospel to those horrible gays and survived!

When people gain status from infighting, from separating the right from the wrong and purging evil, they live in negative identity.   Instead of leading by example, drawing people to them with positive energy, they lead by decimation, separating out challenge and living in the negative, declaiming where others are wrong and sick rather than where they themselves are right and whole.

In the interlocking communities around trans, infighting has pushed more good people out from standing as allies than anything else.

If all we are going to get when we try to connect with other transpeople is being caught up in the infighting, being told where we are wrong and having to surrender our voice to the group, why bother?

Nobody goes through all the shit about emerging as trans in the world to simply fall in as the member of one sect or another.   We want to claim our own power, even if that means we end up becoming the leader of a sect of one, infighting our way in the world by railing about how everyone else is doing it wrong.

It’s very, very easy to be sick of the infighting.   Unless you want to be a part of it, tying your identity to declaiming other as evil, infighting is horribly wearing and alienating, removing benefit from being present.

Infighting keeps us small, weak and divided.  And that’s just sad.