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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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| I Do Not Tell Anybody Anything, But Just Live My Life According... ||Aug 29th. at 9:23:43 pm EDT|
|The Old Kelt (Scotia, New York US) ||Age: 0 |
I do not tell anybody anything, but just live my life according to the old ways and those who have eyes see, and those who do not, don't.
I give it no name, but live it, just the same.
Unlike other religions, the modern pagan way does not demand evangelism. Rather, we promote individual choice.
Choice, and acceptance of responsibility.
| I Think That Being In Or Out Of The "broomcloset" Is A... ||Aug 29th. at 9:45:55 pm EDT|
|Fiona (Durham, North Carolina US) ||Age: 31 |
I think that being in or out of the "broomcloset" is a personal choice. Here in North Carolina, "the buckle of the bible belt", it's not necessarily a good idea to be too out (there are no fewer than ten baptist churches within five miles of my house-don't ask me why they need that many) but I'm not really that secretive about it either. My friends know (and are mostly also Wiccan); my family and my husband's family know; my boss and coworkers know. My husband, his parents and my boss are even all Catholic, and they've made the effort to learn more about my religion and to respect the difference in my beliefs, even though they don't agree with them. Otherwise, I wear my Pentacle all the time, but mostly inside my shirt and just answer questions when I'm asked. I've found that religion is like politics, sometimes it's better to go out and be "in your face" about things, other times it's better to keep a low profile...it just depends on the circumstances.
| While I Am Very Much Out At My Home I Am Very... ||Aug 29th. at 11:15:24 pm EDT|
|Candleberry (North Pole, Alaska US) ||Age: 49 |
While I am very much out at my home I am very much in when it comes to the rest of my family that live elsewhere. Our first rule is harm none. And my telling my very Catholic mother that I am Wiccan would greatly distrub her, so I will keep quiet.
The decision to be in or out must be a personal one and take many things into consideration. The most important thing to remember, in IMNSHO, is the damage it may cause to others. If you are likely to lose your job if you come out and you are your family's only wage earner, then coming out is not a good idea. If, however, you are just supporting yourself then the decision is up to you.
| I'm Out Of The Broom Closet...but No One's Noticed. I Live... ||Aug 29th. at 11:54:22 pm EDT|
|Heather H (Martinsville, Indiana US) ||Age: 29 |
I'm out of the broom closet...but no one's noticed. I live in a very conservative town (but not for long) and work at the public library. Most of the people I work with know I'm a Pagan and I wear a revolving set of pentagrams that range from obvious to vague. So far, in the three years that I've been an "out" Pagan I've had five or six "Nice necklace", two "Oh look, a Star of David" and no negative comments. I guess I don't look like the conservative Christian's stereotype of a Pagan or a Witch, so they just don't comprehend the meaning of what they see. Or, it could be, as a co-worker told me, "You look so Lutheran." I've had no trouble with my family. It's too bad that some Pagans feel forced by their environment, be it familial or social, to hide their religion. This is supposed to be the "Land of the Free" and NO ONE should be forced to hide how they feel or what they believe.
| The Closet Is Comfortable And Some Days, Like After Someone You Thought... ||Aug 30th. at 1:02:11 am EDT|
|Rebekkah Rigler-Lowe (Stratford, Ontario CA) ||Age: 16 - Email |
The closet is comfortable and some days, like after someone you thought you knew attacks you and argue the righteousness of God or someone close comes st you with a "you're going to hell" remark, you may even want to crawl right back in. I realised after a running into someone who I had known for 5 years (she didn't talk to me at all, not even a smile) that I wouldn't want her friendship if it meant that I would have to lie about who I was. I also wouldn't associate with anyone who insulted people because of their religions so why would I spend time with someone who would insult mine? Idealy we could all come out, but when jobs and children and family are at stake then sacrifices must be made. I don't think that people in the closet should be judged, it's something we all need to decide on by ourselves. But I am proud in my decision and I am proud to call myself a witch to anyone. True the are you Jewish? and are you a Satanist? questions do grow old after a while, but I'm not going to change myself to make someone else's or my own life easier. I don't think that anyone can go through life without discrimination, but I've put up with enough to know that backing down isn't the answer. I may always have to deal with the "you're going to hell." from everyone, but I'm able now to reply with a puzzled face and a "You say that as if it's a bad thing. I mean all my friends are going there too."
| Personally, I Believe It Depends On The Individual's Situation. As For My... ||Aug 30th. at 2:30:53 am EDT|
|Skye (Lakewood, New Jersey US) ||Age: 32 - Email |
Personally, I believe it depends on the individual's situation. As for my status: I am the resident witch as far as my friends, coworkers, acquaintances, etc go. My hubby follows my beliefs and my children are taught to honor and respect all creatures, human or otherwise. Now, as far as my in-laws go, forgetaboutit! They are of the the old Italian Catholic variety type and I have a very low tolerance for pain.
It's a sad thing to say that in this day and age, we still have to fight these prejudices, but many of us do.
| Well The Funny Thing Is That In The Vast Majority Of European... ||Aug 30th. at 7:43:18 am EDT|
|Michael (Dublin, European Union) ||Age: 22 |
Well the funny thing is that in the vast majority of European Kindoms, Republics etc, we do have laws which guarentee freedom of religion... the simple truth is that nobody really cares if you are a pagan. It's not really that remarkable.
Some regions of Europe like Northern Ireland have sectarian violence, but this is limited to "internal fueding" between Christians. As The E.U. is predominantly christian we don't have the problems of fights between muslim and christain like the scale in the Balkan states.
I have not bothered to mention my pagan connections to many people, in fact I mentioned it to one close friend in passing one afternoon and he remarked: "Oh, my mum's a pagan also" and that was all that was said. No big deal.
I could not imagine someone being discriminated for being a pagan, they (the non-pagans in society) might find it a little eccentric or maybe a little odd, but you would not get the "you are going to hell" speach.
People often have this picture of pagans running around naked in a forest at night howling at the moon, but it is not seen as something negative... just a little funny.
While a sizable amount of people are christain in name, they tend to be not very religious, so the chruches are more concerned with survival than with condeming minorities.
Europe is very liberal these days with regard to spiritual conciousness.
So in conclusion to coming out of the broom closed... well I don't bother I just do what I do without fanfare, what would be the purpose?
I hope religous tolerance is something that will grow and grow.
| When I Found The Pagan Path About 5 Years Ago, I Had... ||Aug 30th. at 8:44:50 am EDT|
|Autumn (New York, New York US) ||Age: 33 - Email |
When I found the pagan path about 5 years ago, I had been going through a very trying time in my life emotionally. I had been in and out of a hospital being treated for bipolar disorder and had entered a full-time therapy program to help me get back on my feet, working and participating in life again. It was around this same time that I began reading about paganism and Wicca and my current coven "found" me. This timing couldn't have been more perfect. Both activities reinforced each other and complemented each other and I got well much faster than I would have if I had stayed a lapsed Catholic as I'd been for years. I believed at the time that the god and goddess saved my life.
The need to be in or out of the proverbial "broom closet" has not been much of an issue for me personally. I was very open with my family and friends through my entire discovery process. And although several did not completely understand and were aprehensive; it was obvious that the change that had taken place within myself had something to do with this new faith I had found. Now I wasn't out there shoveling it down my loved ones' throats, but I guess I did talk about it quite a bit in the beginning.
Then I returned to the work force. New York City certainly isn't a hotbed of discrimination for pagans in many regards. It's easy to blend into the woodwork and go about your business. I openly wear one simple chain with a moonstone pendant my birth mother gave me and a pentagram. Some people may glance, some actually comment and say things like "me too" and new acquaintances are made, others occasionally ask a question or two then just let it go. But for the most part, it's ignored completely. I don't make a point of telling strangers that HEY I'M A PAGAN, NOTICE ME! But I never hide the fact either and this practice has worked well for me, even romantically.
But I think that the decision is a very personal one. There are people I know who work with children, or in other areas of the country or even in the northern suburbs of NYC who cannot be out at work at all for fear of losing their positions and livelihood, but are out in their social life to an extent. Then I know some who are completely out and give interviews to the NY Times about their beliefs. I respect every person's decision in this matter. Yes, the more of us that CAN come out will benefit the rest of us who for whatever reason, cannot let their faith be known at this time. Some people can just afford to take the heat, others don't care if they have to suffer to fight the good fight. It's all good and in the end, it's always a personal choice.
I also know several people who believe that there are benefits to being "the hidden children of the goddess" and relish the privacy of mystery and prefer no one to know of their religious choice because it's PERSONAL, plain and simple.
Are any of these people right or wrong? No, I don't believe so. They're different, with different lives and responsibilities and personalities, which weave the beautiful tapestry that is our pagan community. Each contributes in their own way to complete the whole. As for myself, I will continue not to hide my beliefs at all. And that's comfortable for me.
| I'm Still In, But I Peek Out From Time To Time. Of... ||Aug 30th. at 1:32:11 pm EDT|
|Richard Gant (Northern Kentucky University, Kentucky US) ||Age: 27 - Email |
I'm still in, but I peek out from time to time. Of course, that's largely how I was *before* I became a pagan. When I considered myself Christian, I din't see any reason to call attention to the fact. I just assumed that if you couldn't tell from my actions, I wasn't doing it right anyway. The same holds true for me as a pagan. I don't see any reason to advertise what I am, but I won't lie about it if I'm asked. As far as I'm concerned, it's much more important to live your principles and beliefs as best you can - if you can't do that, it doesn't matter what label you give yourself or what religion you profess.
| I Suppose I Am Both In And Out... I Peek My Head... ||Aug 30th. at 2:20:05 pm EDT|
|Dyana MoonRose (Granville, West Virginia US) ||Age: 21 - Email |
I suppose I am both in and out... I peek my head out for long periods of time. I am a college student, married, and living on my own with my new husband. I wear my pentacle openly, and my mother knows that I am Wiccan. She doesn't like it, but there is nothing she can do about it. My sister knows, and I am sure most of my family knows, but it never comes up. I suppose they feel it is my business and none of theirs, and they are quite correct. I am currently taking an Anthropology of Religion class at my college and the professor has asked me to do a presentation on Wicca for the class. This particular course focuses on magick, and spirituality - witchcraft and wicca are mentioned several times in the course, and he wants to get the perspective of a witch for the class, I suppose.
I don't flaunt my religion. My religion is mine to practice how I choose, that is very true. But I don't feel the driving need to run up and down the campus quad yelling, "Hey!! Look at me! I'm a witch!!!" That would serve no other purpose except making me look foolish, which, strangely enough, I would not want to do.
I respect people's decisions to go around and be "out and proud" or to stay in for personal reasons. It isn't my concern. I am involved in the pagan community. I write for the Mountain Pagan Newsletter, which is published quarterly. I assist in moderating the West Virginia Pagans Mailing list, and help with the WVPC.net webpage as often as time allows me to.
Those that feel resentment towards pagans who remain in the broomcloset are being silly in my opinion. Those grumblers do not know, and have not experienced those people's lives and have no idea of the consequences that they may face if they DO come out of the broomcloset. They have no right to say that everyone has to be as open as they are simply because they are experiencing a nonfavorable backlash because of their openness. They should trust in the fact that they are doing a job that needs to be done so hopefully one day those broomcloset dwellers can come out to a more favorable atmosphere.
I am happy that I don't have to hide too much. I put up my books when my parents come to visit, simply because I want to make them as comfortable as possible, and avoid a possible argument or fight. I wear my pentacle openly on campus, and have had people ask about it rather infrequently. It isn't a very big deal here.
| In And Out. Out In That In General I Can Wear My... ||Aug 30th. at 2:34:40 pm EDT|
|David Reynolds (Cedar Rapids, Iowa US) ||Age: 25 - Email |
In and out. Out in that in general I can wear my necklace (a pentacle overlaid with a stag's head) in public and not get any flak. I usually tuck it under my shirt for official meetings at work, especially with parents or social workers (I work with troubled kids) mainly because the explanation time would be all-consuming. I've gotten the "star of david" comments, and a few coworkers' strange looks, but I don't advertise it in general (if I need off for a holiday, I just ask for it, not why. And I get plenty of holiday pay for working 12/25 and Easter!).
The saddest thing to me is in working with the kids, that they are often pushed away from understanding other religions. Many of them are hunting for something they can belong to and draw strength from. But often they are selected as being "at risk" for no other reason than that they are interested in witchcraft and/or Wicca. And other times, they think witchcraft means satanism, and I itch to correct them (or at least offer a non-satanic alternative). But aside from having a few informal discussions with groups of kids I already know when they notice my pentacle, I can't do much. I'm still slowly researching the legal aspects of this.
As far as family goes, they don't in general know. My mother is devoutly Christian and while she does not agree with me, she doesn't try to change me either. She raised her kids far too stubborn for THAT to work.
| In ...out ...or On The Threshold? I Found Myself Pondering This Question... ||Aug 30th. at 2:51:16 pm EDT|
|Ocean WindSong (Pahoa, Hawaii US) ||Age: 37 - Email |
IN ...OUT ...or ON THE THRESHOLD?
I found myself pondering this question for a second time ..as the first posting didn't make it to the masses :-(
I am rather fortunate to reside in Hawaii. A culture rich and full of mystery, magick and Kahuna. On any given day you can see the results in the worship of Pele, Maui, Ohia, Lehua, etc. This environment allows me to be all that I am!!!
I am OUT...always have been. I neither hide nor force my OUTNESS on anyone. BUT...I drive a little black hover craft covered with stickers of statements. My way of passing a bit of what I beleive...my conscious statement to the world. I find myself being approached , on any given day, by others ...." I love your car" " Can I take a picture of your car". Yes, yes...I know...many beleive that a vehicle is an extention of ones personality. And they are right!!! I beleive that change must occur for all to be free. And change begins with an individual making a small difference on a small island in the middle of the pacific. Perhaps one day...a young witch will see my car, approach me and ask for guidance. For that young witch may be 'in' the closet and feel very much alone. For that simple reason ' I am responsible'. With being OUT..there also comes immense responsibility. Responsibilty to conduct ones life in the public eye with the awareness we are being watched, judged and scrutinized. This is not an easy task, by no means, but one I feel I was prepared to make that faithful day I placed " PAGAN AND PROUD" on the rear end of my car.
I grew up in a open-minded Unitarian family. So I never experienced the limitations imposed by the "traditional western judeo-christian" beliefs. My "freakness" was always accepted and even emulated by others. I was always taught acceptance, love and tolerance of all, even if I didn't agree. So 'coming out' wasn't difficult for me. Of course, we all find ourselves at one time or another with thoughts of 'what will they think'. But on a whole I have no need to be concerned of what others opinions of me are at any time in my life. They have the right to those opinions. That is THEIR choice. My CHOICE is to be true to self as I define it, not as anyone else shall define it.
I have friends who are still "IN" or standing on the threshold. This is their choice...much like mine is mine. I accept their choice with love and tolerance as they do mine. One thing I realize though: the energy expended to 'hide' in the closet is energy removed from self and worship. For this I am concerned. I feel the pain and frustration. I feel the duality of being OUT to some and the hiding from others. This duality breeds confusion and eventual feelings of self-doubt.
In conclusion...as in all things in life..it is an individual CHOICE. If one chooses to be OUT...one must also accept the responsibilty to the collective. It never is a simple black/white issue. We are made of grey matter and shall forever be caught in that dichotomy.
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