In quantitative research terms, I am the margin of error. I am the thing that is ungeneralizable. I am the population that does not yield significant results. How would you characterize my dispersion? What behaviour could someone like me produce that typifies the general populace? What measure of mean, mode, or median would I show up on? How standard is my perceived deviation?
Outliers, like myself, tend to upset statisticians. We skew average measurements of how an experience ought to be. But what if…what if that is exactly what they are there for:
—to account for the oddities,
—and to make accountable the factors that cause these oddities to exist.
If the purported value is in pulling us all up towards that golden mean norm, then how exactly will you unburden us of all the things that mark us as an outlier? Or are you willing to change your mean to meet us?
I have been accused of not belonging to the group whose language I speak.
I have been told that I can’t belong to the group whose ancestral name I bear.
I have been questioned about belonging to the land that I was born in.
I have been assigned membership to groups that I don’t belong to.
There is no biodata questionnaire where I can check off these moments that, because of their high frequency, have intruded upon me and, uninvited, set up shop and become part of my identity. And I can assure you, if you ask anyone, you carry these moments with you, as a part of who you are for the rest of your life.
They are a passport of a different kind.
These moments transport you to spaces that you didn’t know you belonged to, to communities you didn’t know you were a part of. These moments, like your eye colour, should be attested somewhere, because they affect how you see the world and how the world has seen you.
When researchers cast their net, they only ever capture a piece of me. And no matter what field they publish their ideas in, they will never be able to reassemble all of me. So I get relegated to the shadows–to the grey, where my story is too complex to tell, because I lack generalizability to the rest of the population.
At best, I’m a case study. But who will author my story? Will it be an intersectional gender study that tells my tale? A post-colonial, critical race theory instead? Perhaps even a sociolinguistic variationist account of my numerous registers across two languages, could that capture all the nuances?
Who could tell it all without missing a part of me?
Who among them has the microscope powerful enough to determine: Where one part of my identity begins, and another one ends? And will I agree with their demarcations?
Can they ever publish on me, if me and my many representations are normally never invited to the table?
Can they even understand someone like me?
Can they dare speak on behalf of me? Or for that matter, anyone of us?
To be clear: I don’t need to be part of any group. Yet so many people need me to be part of one. My responses comfort their curiosity, I’ve been told. They answer questions someone had been meaning to ask. For a world that romanticizes uniqueness, it is certainly quick to want to eliminate that which does not fit in.
But in my own terms?
I am an integer of boundless possibility.
I appear whole, though I am composed of fractions.
Though I live with everyone, and thought that I was experiencing the same world as you, I realized, one day, that I wasn’t.
Though I illuminate the black and the white, I live in the grey.
It frees me to walk in the grey.
It intrigues me to walk in the shadows.
It amuses me to be part of the ombre.
Because I live in thick descriptions, I am the thing you search to understand, but can only theorize about.
I am unattainable.
I am a Garden of Earthly Delights with unseen triptychs.
I am the water that gracefully slips between the interstices of your clutching hand.
I am the margin of error.