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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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| 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,
| While Living In Greenwich Village And The Chelsea Areas Of New York... ||Aug 28th. at 2:30:51 pm EDT|
|IkoStarr (Chicago, Illinois US) ||Age: 36 - Email |
While living in Greenwich Village and the Chelsea areas of New York City almost a decade ago I was exposed to bitter wars of words between openly "out" homosexuals - some of those who were out resented those still 'in the closet' and would publicly "out" these individuals when they were discovered. Many other "out" homosexuals hated to see their closeted brothers and sisters treated this way. How sad that some of our pagan brothers and sisters seem to be approaching our closeted brethren the same way that some of the homosexuals approached their closeted brethren a decade ago. Who are any of us to say when if ever is the right time for somebody else to emerge from the closet? Coming out of the closet, like many other monumental decisions in life, is only a decision that can be made once. Once somebody is "out, " that is a bell that cannot be unrung.
I work in a law firm and I am awaiting the results of my bar exam. I will be a lawyer. I am closeted to my co-workers, though any fellow pagan out there would recognize for what it is the well crafted delicate five pointed star surrounded by a circle that I wear on a necklace everyday. I am closeted to many of my friends. I do not feel the need to proclaim my religion to the masses to legitimatize it - I know it is legitimate and that the only opinion that matters to me most of the time. Pagans sometimes face religious discrimination, but the way to fight discrimination is not to "out" our fellow pagans or feel that we have some duty to jump out of the broom closet before we are ready, if ever. The homosexuals who "outted" their "friends" quickly found that they were not only fighting society for acceptance, but were also considered by a majority of the gay community as a blight on that community. Those pagans that scream at the tops of their lungs that we all must be "out" and carry the pagan cause like some banner (literally and figuratively) in a Fourth of July parade will likely find their circle of pagan friends will actually shrink rather than grow. Those who would "out" others, or those of you who condemn those of us who are not yet 'out enough' in your opinion are, in my opinion, violating the basic tenets of our religion. Harm none. Who are any of you to make these very personal and basic decisions for the rest of us?
| Out, But Reasonable About It. In Any Situation Wherein One Chooses To... ||Aug 28th. at 2:33:25 pm EDT|
|Orion (Miami, Florida US) ||Age: 29 - Email |
Out, but reasonable about it.
In any situation wherein one chooses to make a statement about one's personal beliefs, be they political, personally religious, etc. , one is opening up oneself to a reasonable amount of criticism. To moan and complain about the fact that another person may disagree, even loudly, with your expression of choice is naive at best and foolish at worst.
Having been pagan for over ten years, I have had cause to see a lot of pagans loudly assert thier religion to unsympathetic or even hostile audiences and then cry "respect all religious opinions" at the negative response. The First Amendment does NOT protect the speaker from critics of that which he has spoken. In other words, you must accept that people are going to disagree with you and that respect isn't a right you can claim. Debate is essential to the expression of free speech in the American society, and no person can resonably expect or demand that the audience tolerate what he or she has said.
My concern lies not in whether or not I am free to announce my faith, since I know I am; but I also don't advertise my religion in any sense. Occasionally I wear a pentacle, more often I don't. No "magic" lies in the pentacle that will ensure I stay pagan. I don't need the assent, positive or negative, from others in order to believe what I believe. Unfortunately, I think far too many pagans who are "out" crave that sort of sanction in order to justify thier faith, and will take negative responses as sanction for a defensive posture of justification.
Should it be a personal choice to be "in or out"? It is always a personal choice, and no person should be "out" for any other reason that one's own comfort. The question I would ask is "What is your reason for being 'out'? What do you expect of others if you 'come out'? Is this a reasonable expectation?"
"Virtute aquiritur honos"
| I Am Way Out The Broom Closet. I Proudly Wear My Pentacle... ||Aug 28th. at 2:38:30 pm EDT|
|Rick (San Diego, California US) ||Age: 25 - Email |
I am way out the broom closet. I proudly wear my pentacle and other things at times. I even have several stickers on my car. I'm very outspoken at work (US Navy) about religious rights. I get questions about my beliefs on an almost daily basis. This is great. It allows me the chance to inform my fellow human being to what paganism, wicca, withcraft, etc. are about; in general terms of course. It is amazing to see how their perspective on the religion changes, sometimes significantly. I have had very few bad meetings with folks. I do get some dirty looks at time, but oh well. To each their own.
| I My Province Is A Native Tribe Whose Name Is Pronounced The... ||Aug 28th. at 2:39:44 pm EDT|
|Rathalyn Starwind (Sundre, Alberta CA) ||Age: 31 - Email |
I my province is a Native tribe whose name is pronounced the same way as Pagan(Peigen) so half the time when I do tell someone, they seem to think that that is what I mean, even though I don't look the least bit Native. Then when I start to talk about it they become confused and I have to explain.
I live in a small community, so while some few know I am not Christian, even fewer know I am Pagan. I am of the opinion "ask and I'll tell you" but few know that there is anything to ask about. I wear a goddess necklace, but it just looks like an art piece to most. For the current year I am in a position of respect in my service club (Order of the Royal Purple, sister to Elks) and I have to protect that. The only people I would not come right out to are my parents: I have had some discussions ABOUT Paganism with my mother and she knows i have Pagan friends; I think she suspects. My father, a retired minister, walked in on one of these discussions, said "I don't think i want to hear this conversation" turned off his hearing aids, and walked out.
| I Would Give Anything To Be "out Of The Broom Closet" But... ||Aug 28th. at 2:52:07 pm EDT|
|SilverFire (Richmond, Virginia US) ||Age: 21 - Email |
I would give anything to be "Out of the Broom closet" but to be out I literally have to give UP everything. I live in a very roman catholic household. My family has already had the nasty surprise (between myself and them) of finding various books I had. From that came threats. Of exorcism, calling a priest, calling the psych ward, calling my friends and denoucing me. The final threat was to disown me. At the time this happened I wasn't prepared or ready to deal with being an "Out" witch. I didn't have my arguments ready, I was caught unawares, and I certainly wasn't prepared for the emotional backlash that I got from extremely angry parents. I was told that by giving up their religion I was giving up my family and heading towards a dark path.
I understand that they dont' want to learn about pagnanism, or witchcraft or anything with these "new fangled new age religions". They want me on the old path that they are on. I KNOW it is not right for me. But neither is it right for me to hurt them. Neither is it right for me to disregaurd the rest of my life just to be "Out" now. I am dependant upon them for school and work and basically everything. I know that doesn't have to be the case but I desperately want to finish school and achieve things that I can only do with my degree.
I fight in the best way I can. I get online and post to various groups and make e-mail messages when I think it's important. If there was the slightest hope of being able to face my family and be welcomed no matter what my beliefs I would do it with the largest smile on my face.
For "out" pagans to grumble because some of us can't be "out" hurts not only the people who are grumbling but the whole comunity. What you send out you get back. Even if it isn't malicious...it's still out there.
My only hope for all pagans is for us to pull together as a community even more. For those of us who get dumped from our own homes by unwilling family memebers will have somewhere to go where we know that our beliefs won't be held against us.
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