I’ve always loved margins. As a kid, the margin was where I would scribble all of my random thoughts, ideas, and daydreams. It was a place where I could doodle to my heart’s content. All of the work of the day was focused on the middle of the page, but the margin—the margin was mine. It was totally empty, a space I could call my own. I could fill it however it liked. As I progressed through high school and college, my margins became smaller and smaller. My algebra and geometry calculations began encroaching on my free space. My notes on literary passages that I needed to remember were scribbled on either side of the text. My margins were being pushed out. However, no matter how much I wrote, the margin never quite disappeared. There was always a little bit of that free space, visible between letters, between words. Tiny pockets of white just barely visible between lines and inside “O”s and “A”s.
I always found margins attractive because they represented a freedom from work—an escape. Yet as I began to struggle to understand my sexuality and my sexual orientation in high school, I realized that the margin was no longer the safe haven I could once explore. Instead, I was being pushed into the margins and locked away. It suddenly became a place of confinement. I was different, and as such I began to believe that I belonged in the margins. I was simply too loud or too effeminate or too gay for polite, mainstream society. It felt like obstacles were being raised all around me to keep me in my place. Yet this place—this margin of confinement and isolation—is exactly the space Precious Blood spirituality compels us to occupy.
At the Pacific Center for Human Growth in Berkeley, CA, we provide mental health services to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender clients living in the margins. We embrace those people who have found the margin to be a cold, disconnected place, and help them transform it into that magical space I inhabited as a child. My favorite thing about San Francisco is that is shows that living in the margins doesn’t have to mean living in despair. The margin can be a fabulous place where communities come together out of love and support for one another. But it takes tireless work to achieve that dream.
It is time to stop thinking of the margins as what we are told they are, and to start envisioning what magnificent places they could be. By living and working in the margins, we create communities there—vibrant, beautiful communities where people can celebrate their differences as gifts from a wonderfully creative God. I have found in my life that the margin is no longer a place of shame, but one of pride. My empty white space has become brilliantly rainbow, and for that I couldn’t be happier.
Jason G’Sell is a 2012 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and a 2012 Precious Blood Volunteer.