Some people have rare medical conditions. Some people may be trans or nonbinary. Some people may learn in ways drastically different from the general public (e.g. autistic people with a blend of extreme abilities and disabilities). Some people may have survived extreme psychological, sexual, or physical abuse in their childhoods. (Note that I’m not talking about ESP or anything of the sort; I’m talking about experiences located in the brain or other parts of the body.)

But if you go online and read Wiki articles, blogs, or social media posts, those outliers simply don’t exist. All they can see is the central tendency.

Anyone describing a highly unusual experience is mocked. They’re ridiculed. “Experts” are hauled out to say that, based on their metrics that are normed on a more typical population, these outliers’ experiences cannot be adequately verified. (No, your instruments throw out anyone who doesn’t fit your normal curve exactly. Those who are thrown out cannot be assessed.)

They think, “If you don’t fit into our metrics, you’re somehow fake.”

And if you have the misfortune of belonging to one of those statistically rare groups, you are told day in and day out that you are lying, faking, “claiming” to have a condition, deluded, malingering. It’s a kind of unintentional gaslighting. Nothing is made for you, and yet they apply these standards that systematically exclude outliers from their models to claim that your experiences do not matter or do not exist.

Outliers have to find their own communities, sharing symptoms and experiences in Facebook groups. They’ll often use informal diagnoses and offer lay advice because professionals won’t listen to them. What’s especially terrifying is that some of these communities have a serious problem with predatory leaders who take advantage of the isolation and disbelief with which they’re met by the general public. And they know that, because who’s going to believe that you have a rare disease? Or learned calculus at six? Or realised you wanted to transition at 12? Or went through horrific child sexual abuse before the age of 13? These leaders can say “Nobody will believe you. We’re the only ones who can understand you.”