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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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Question of the Week: 4 - 8/27/2000
The Broomcloset-In or Out?... What's YOUR View?
Some Pagans feel that it might be better if everyone Pagan was just open about their beliefs. Some, on the other hand, are sick of 'in your face' Pagans or groups. Others feel that in some areas of the country being "in" is almost a necessity. But we've also heard some background grumbling that expresses rather resentfully that those who remain hidden are simply reaping the benefits earned-while experiencing none of the backlash-by those who are openly fighting for pagan rights.
The apprehension of what the impact of openly declaring a pagan belief might be on a family or work relationship is as much a concern in the decision-making process as what the reaction of a neighborhood or community might be in other cases. So, are YOU in or out? How far out is 'too far' out? What are the pitfalls or the rewards? Why should everyone be out, in, or just make his or her own decision about the broomcloset occupancy rate.
| Reponses: There are 181 responses posted to this question.
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| If A Christian Is Proud Enough To Wear Their Cross, Then Why... ||Aug 28th. at 10:02:55 am EDT|
|Rev. Rowan Jehanne (Williamsport, Pennsylvania US) ||Age: 26 |
If a Christian is proud enough to wear their cross, then why should I not be equally proud to wear my pentacle? If a Christian is open about wishing people a "Happy (insert Judeo-Christian holiday here)", then why should I not in return wish them a good Samhain, for example? I am proud of my faith and its history. The roots of our faith system stretch back millennia. Surely we are the elder religion. If a members of a young religion, for example Christianity, are allowed to be open in society, I see no reason to closet myself.
I must say, that I am lucky. While my area is not exactly tolerant and is having a revival of Jewish-Carpenter-Worship, I do not feel threatened to walk with my pent in the open. Sure their have been incidents...I mean, heck, I may not live in the Bible Belt, but I do live in the Bible Necktie. Caution and common sense must always be exercise, though. If you are a Witch with children and you live next door to a militant Born-Again, you may want to be careful. We live in an age when school children slaughter each-other over relatively small issues; Goddess knows what a self-righteous religious zealot might do.
I also had written on this subject previously. I am the authoress of essay #21 of Witchvox's "Out of the Broom Closet" essay series. In my essay you may find the amusing story of what it is like to be a Pagan at a Charismatic Christian wedding (it involves the Pagan being asked, [because she wore a pentacle!] to leave) and how it led to the Pagan divorcing herself of her S/O's family.
Choose your battles carefully, do not endanger your family or yourself, but DO be proud to be yourself. It's their Hell, perhaps they should test out the temperature for us...
| Well, I Am Lucky. My Family Is Pretty Tolerant, Except For My... ||Aug 28th. at 10:15:29 am EDT|
|Euryale (South Jersey) ||Age: 21 - Email |
Well, I am lucky. My family is pretty tolerant, except for my fundamentalist, born again christian brother. As you all can imagine, there have been arguments. I'll tell you it's a horrible feeling when your brother tells you that you worship Satan and are going to hell. He has been much more tolerant since that argument, I am happy to say. But there is still tension. As far as my work goes, they are pretty tolerant. I answer questions as best as I can. However, I try to be cautious and don't tell many people. I feel my religion is personal. I share openly with my circle and others that I know in the craft. But as far as others go - they have to have my trust.
| I Am, For The Most Part, An Outside The Broomcloset Kinda Witch... ||Aug 28th. at 10:45:50 am EDT|
|Loyalty LionRose (Bethany, Louisiana US) ||Age: 20 - Email |
I am, for the most part, an outside the broomcloset kinda Witch. Some people think that being out of the broomcloset means that they have to constantly be telling other people about their faith, like introducing themselves by their religion. "Hi, Im Susie, and Im a Wiccan!" That is not necessarily true. The way that I handle it is I simply dont try to hide my faith. I read Wiccan and Pagan books in the family room in front of my parents. I wear my pentacle everywhere I go. I keep an altar set up in my room. But I dont go around advertising myself. I know a lot of people who complain about Christians who try to "witness" to them, and I must admit that I have complained myself. It DOES get somewhat annoying. The fact is with Wiccans, any sort of advertisment of our beliefs is seen by everyone else as "Witches trying to convert people into sin." We have to be more careful about that. I only tell people about my religion if they ask. I only tell them about the symbolism of the pentacle if they ask. I know some people who might say that Im asking for trouble by not just coming right out and saying up front that Im Wiccan, because some people wont ask, theyll just assume they know everything. And thats true. But how many times have we sighed and rolled our eyes when someone approaches us and says "Have you heard of the everlasting love and joy of Jesus Christ?" Just imagine what THEY would have to say if some Pagan approached them with, "Im a Wiccan, otherwise known as a Witch, and I worship the Goddess!" Innocent from our point of view maybe, but not from theirs. At least with me, if they seem upset by what I tell them, I can just inwardly shrug my shoulders and think "You asked!"
| First Off, I'd Like To Say That I Don't Exactly Like Being... ||Aug 28th. at 11:21:11 am EDT|
|Vivhianna (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario CA) ||Age: 17 - Email |
First off, I'd like to say that I don't exactly like being "in the broom closet". It's stifling, a bit scary at times, and I don't like to hide from people. Of course, there are some who know about my change of religion; my mother tends to lean in this direction herself once in awhile (?!) and I have a close friend whose cousin is Wiccan. I'm not ashamed of being Pagan--far from it, in fact. I just feel that at this time, it would be best for me if I kept quiet.
Lots of things went into consideration here. First, my father declares every chance he gets that "Canada is a CHRISTIAN country!" When he found out that I was studying Wicca a couple of years ago for a school project, he gave me a lecture about the evils of witchcraft. When I made the decision that Catholicism wasn't really for me, I felt as if I was torn in two directions. I didn't want to disobey my father, but I didn't want to be part of a religion I felt no connection to.
Second, I go to a Catholic school (not my choice). People tend to look down on Pagans there. The rumor that I was a witch back when I was doing that project ran wild and some very unpleasant things happened to me because of it. Just about the only good thing that came from that was that I found out who my real friends were. Eventually people forgot about that rumor, but my life wasn't too happy for quite some time.
Third, and maybe most important, I think I'm learning something from this. Since I made my decision, I've become more tolerant of other people's beliefs. I know what it's like to feel I have to hide and I know how helpless I sometimes feel because of it. It's not nice to be labelled and I think I've slowed down, if not stopped, my labelling of others because of the way I was labelled for awhile. Maybe when I feel I've stopped learning from being "in the broom closet" I'll make some ventures out, but for now I don't think I can afford to.
I didn't mean to make this so long, but there was a lot I wanted to say.
| I Am Fortunate Enough Not To Have To Live With The Mops... ||Aug 28th. at 11:36:09 am EDT|
|Sabine (Avoca, Pennsylvania US) ||Age: 32 - Email |
I am fortunate enough not to have to live with the mops. My company is one that promotes diversity and inclusion and luckily, I have supportive family and friends. However, being a single women (without children) what I do and say usually only affects myself. I have other Pagan friends who are not so lucky as they constantly worry about "coming out" and what effect that will have on their children. It's nice if you can do it, but for those who feel they can't, we in the community should be suuportive of their feelings and not ever intentionally "out" someone. But it is a nice feeling not to have to "hide". We can only hope that someday there will be no closet.
| Merry Meet, I've Followed A Wiccan Path For Over 6 Years Now... ||Aug 28th. at 11:55:06 am EDT|
|WhiteBear (Austin, Texas US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
Merry Meet, I've followed a Wiccan path for over 6 years now, and I am out of the broom closet for the most part. I don't hide it at work, anymore. And since I came out at work, my boss has given me the major Sabbats off as religious holidays with no penalty to my vacation or sick hours (my last employer let me have the day off, but I had to take vacation time). My boss is definitely more tolerant than most, though. I've worked at jobs where I was frozen out of pay raises and promotions for no apparent reason despite being well recognised not just at the company but by my industry peers. The only people I have not told are my parents. I haven't figured out how to tell them yet. My dad is very devout in his Christianity, and it would be very difficult for him to deal with. My mom suspects - she jokes with me about my incense purchases and the icons and books I have - but she just thinks I'm a little eccentric.
The only real disadvantage I've experienced being out has been in the romance department. Most of the single women I know are Christian and want nothing to do with a Pagan. And a lot of the women I meet who find out I'm Pagan suddenly become interested because they think I can cast spells for them and do all this other stuff they see on TV and have a romantic/gothic version of what a Witch is and does. When they find out the reality, they lose interest and go away.
Anyway, thanks for listening,
| For Some The Broom Closet Is A Fine And Private Place - But... ||Aug 28th. at 11:59:26 am EDT|
|arielle (Seattle, Washington US) ||Age: 42 - Email |
For some the broom closet is a fine and private place - but very lonely. Out of the closet is free and honest, but open to attack. For me there is no choice. My ex-husband is always looking for a way to get custody of our children (now in their early teens), and with the right judge he would if he knew my religious preferences - and knew that our children shared them with me! As he has aged, he has become closed-minded and conservative, He is upset because our children are individuals with opinions, instead of robots he can roll out whenever he wants to show them off or spend time with them. Both children have made it clear they have no wish to live with him - or even visit at times. Apparently this is because I allow them the freedom to grow to be the adults they want, not what I think they should be. Do I have the right to jeopardize their freedom to be themselves so that I can come out of the broom closet a few years early? Not to mention that they join me in my religious preferences. When I chose to have children, I chose a 20 year responsibility as a minimum. Part of my responsibility is to provide them with a space to grow in. Their father wouldn't do that. So for me, there is no choice - at least for a few more years.
| It All Depends On The Situation. I Was Totally Out In My... ||Aug 28th. at 1:07:32 pm EDT|
|Carol (Columbus, Ohio US) ||Age: 41 |
It all depends on the situation.
I was totally out in my old department at work(lots of former East Bloc atheists -- I miss the freedom I enjoyed there), but I dare not be out in my new department (mundane "white people", LOL). I've told people in this new place that I'm Unitarian, which is true, but I don't get into specifics. One person is very Christian, but also very New Age and mystically inclined. I could probably tell her, but I choose not to. We meet on common ground in the areas of alternative medicine, and positive visualization. She doesn't need to know more.
I'm a very honest person, so it's very difficult for me to keep secrets about myself (about others is a different matter!). Working temp jobs last year and being where I am now has been an exercise in learning "to keep silent"! A challenge, but I'm doing it. My cubicle has lots of Celtic knotwork, and an *open* Llewellyn Witches' Calendar (which is in a corner out of easy reading view of anyone except for me -- no one sees the cover). If people figure it out, they do, and that's okay. They already know me in other ways. What is visible is too obscure for mundanes. I love hiding Pagan things in plain sight -- it's a fun game! :-)
I got an interesting object lesson in how people see only what they wish to see. I was in a Catholic bookstore looking for St. Brigid stuff (heh, heh!). The owner saw my charm ring and looked at what I had. Her perceptions are in parentheses. I have a staurolite fairy cross (a cross), an Ankh (an "Egyptian" cross), an owl (bird head representing the Holy Spirit), a triskele (the Trinity), love birds from my hubby (not perceived as religious), a Moon Lady (perceived as an art nouveau piece), a feather (an angel feather), and a fairy (an angel, but naked?!). She had *no clue* whatsoever what they meant to me! That taught me a lot in about five minutes.
When it comes to family, I'm out with my family (liberal or recovering cafeteria Catholics -- my sister is in ADF), but in the closet with my in-laws, who are fanatical, black-belt, pre-Vatican II Catholics. One sister-in-law doesn't want my nieces to wear their staurolite fairy crosses I gave them, she's that superstitious. I find I can be somewhat open with my nieces and nephew, but I never use the "W" word with them. One has even seen my pentagram, and was totally cool with it and discrete about it.
In the Pagan community, I'm out. I only go by my first name, common and mundane enough. I guard my last name because it's an unusual ethnic name, and we're listed in the phone book. (I'd have no concerns if my last name were Smith or Johnson or Williams.) My husband has a public contact job, so we don't need people evangelizing to him in his workplace. It's happened spontaneously, but we don't need to provoke it.
To the general community, I'm subtly out, but I don't flash it about. I wear a pentagram ring when not at work, and so far, no comments or negative attitudes. I'm lucky to live in a city which, while it has its share of rabid evangelical Christians, it also has large and visible Pagan and Gay communities. In certain areas of town, I can be totally out, in others, I must be more circumspect. My immediate neighbors don't know what I'm into because they can literally hit us where we live, but some Hindu neighbors two doors down are pretty much left alone, so maybe I could be more open with some neighbors. (I think it's acceptable for brown people to be non-Christian, but not okay for "white" people -- a kind of reverse racism.) Some friends of mine moved from Texas, and they were *shocked* at how open Pagans can be here without much fear of harassment.
So, I'm careful, I'm discrete, I'm discerning. I'm out where I can be, but only in as much as necessary when necessary. Everyone has to judge for themselves and decide for themselves. We don't need members of our community "outing" other members. Each of us knows best.
| I Know That Being "out Of The Broom Closet" Is Not Feasible... ||Aug 28th. at 1:23:06 pm EDT|
|Stephanie/Harvestmoon (New Orleans, Louisiana US) ||Age: 45 |
I know that being "out of the broom closet" is not feasible for everyone. We are very careful here not to "out" someone who chooses to be "in". But I truly think that as long as the majority of W/P/W's stay in the broom closet, the mundane world will think we have something to hide. And they usually think the something is truly twisted, illegal, satanic, etc.
On the other hand, now that so many of us coming out, and for the most part we're getting really good press with accurate documentaries, etc., there are many fundamentalists that feel truly threatened. (Hence the big "Harry Potter" scare). But boo-hoo, what a pity. I've been out for a long time, and I refuse to go back in. In order for there to never again be the burning times, we need to be out and willing to fight for our right to religious freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Blessed be...
| Pagan & Proud !!!! I Wear My Jewelry All The Time, I Even Wore... ||Aug 28th. at 1:28:38 pm EDT|
|Dee (Cleveland,, Ohio US) ||Age: 29 - Email |
Pagan & Proud !!!!
I wear my jewelry all the time, I even wore it to a friends' mother's house that was a born again christian. She got uncomfortable and asked me why I was putting myself on a path to hell. I just politely told her that I don'r recognize Satan or the christian concept of hell so it wasn't my concern. She didn't ask for my explanation and I didn't offer it. I do however give information when asked by people. I work part-time as a waitress and naturally people see my pentacle and other symbols that I wear. And I have found more often than not that (at least the ones I've encountered) people are enlightened and relieved to find out that I'm not "evil". They know me as a "normal looking" , "normal acting" young lady. So I have no reservations about speaking my mind about my faith and beliefs when asked. If (on the rare occassion) someone still thinks I'm "evil" I just think to myself that it's a shame that person is narrow minded and leave it alone. I don't feel I need to wage a major debate with someone who doesn't except me or my faith. If someone tries to fire me up into a debate, I just tell them "You have your belief and I have mine. There's no need to debate who's right or wrong." and I walk away. I've been fortunate not to have had any real problems with anyone over my faith. My parents don't like it but then again, My mom is Lutheran and my Dad is Catholic, so I was never baptized as either. They are the ones that said I would be able to choose my own religion. As for work, when people started asking questions I answered them. No one has a problem with my faith. It doesn't have an impact on my job so there's really no issue. As for others. I think it's up to each of us as individuals as to whether they "come out" or not. I can understand for people with children that they have a responsibility to protect them from unneeded attacks. It's a shame that in today's society people are still ignorant. It never seems to change that when people are naive to a group they fear them and in turn attack what they don't know. I can only hope and say "someday."
| Merry Meet, I Believe It Should Be Every Individual's Choice To Be... ||Aug 28th. at 1:47:56 pm EDT|
|Vashtia (Salina, Kansas US) ||Age: 22 - Email |
Merry Meet, I believe it should be every individual's choice to be in or out of the broomcloset. One's relationship with Diety is a very personal thing and the decision to share that with others who may or may not be of like mind is likewise a personal choice. Many factors may contribute to this decision; where you live, what type of community you live in, how you were raised, etc. Those who chose to stay in are not lesser pagans than those who chose to display their pentacles proudly. They simply take a different stance on religion and how public it should be. I consider myself to be in the broom closet. I don't openly wear religious symbols, nor do I openly discuss religious topics. Sometimes, I am met with the attitude (among the pagan community) that I am hiding from myself and from the Goddess. This is simply not true. I am completely open with my chosen form of Diety whether I am in ritual or in public. She know who I am and I know who She is and since everyone's relationship with the Goddess is different I believe it's silly to pass judgement on those who do not express their relationship in the same way as you. I don't "hide" out of fear or embarrassment, I am just as proud to be one of the Goddess' own as anyone...I am just a very private person and do not care to have every little choice I make be on display for public knowledge. Well, that was my two cents. Bright Blessings everyone
| Bright Blessings! My Name Is Flowering Desert, And I've Been Out Of... ||Aug 28th. at 1:51:59 pm EDT|
|Fowering Desert (Dayton, Nevada US) ||Age: 34 - Email |
Bright blessings! My name is Flowering Desert, and I've been out of the broom closet for the past year.
I live in the West, and from my experience here most people are really very tolerant. I understand, though, that this is not the case in many other parts of the nation. Please, don't misunderstand me, there is plenty of intolerant, misinformed, and down right narrow-minded people out here; no region is ever free of these things. But, being in such a rural area, it is quite a walk to find your neighbors and spy on what they are doing in their back yards during a full moon.
I'm very open about my beliefs, but I do hesitate when I'm around my childrens' friends and their parents. I would hate for my children to become targets, and as children they are weeker and smaller and therfore more easilly preyed upon by the misinformed. I do try to provide a good example, and answer any questions in a straight forward manner, and with complete honesty. I also strive to raise my little ones with the knowledge that there are many different belief systems out there and that tolerance and understanding are qualities to be prized in any one.
I would love to be able to say that everyone should be open about their belief system, and proud of it, too. Religious freedom was the whole reason our nation was built in the first place. Unfortunately, memories are short, and too many times the things we know about any given subject are what we are told by the press, Hollywood, and our political leaders. I think we are getting closer and closer to having more people coming out in the open. However it will take all of us constantly working to educate those around us, and providing fine examples for this to happen. We must all use our given talents whether they be as compelling speakers, gifted writers, or wonderful listeners to aid in the breaking of the barriers that seperate the different belief systems from one another.
Respectfully Your Servant,
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