Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Come Out of the Broom Closet

You may have decided that you're comfortable enough in your spiritual path that you're ready to "come out of the broom closet."  This essentially means coming out as a Pagan or Wiccan -- making it known to family, friends, neighbors, etc.  Chances are it's not a decision you've made lightly, because it's a pretty big step. After all, once you've "come out", you don't get to take it back if people don't like it. Certainly, we all want to be accepted by those we love and care about, but realistically we know there's a chance they might be upset, angry or concerned once they find out we're Wiccan or Pagan.  Between 2004-2008 about 20,000 people in Africa were identified as witches and many were lynched, burned and/or killed.
Thirty years ago, coming out as a Pagan or Wiccan was virtually unheard of. The only people who were actually out were Pagan authors.  Many people consider religion to be a private thing anyway -- no matter what religion they may be -- and are perfectly content to limit the number of people in their lives who actually know the details.  One of the reasons it's so hard to get an accurate count of the current Pagan and Wiccan population is because there are so many people who are simply private about their beliefs. Estimates in the United States alone suggest that there are anywhere from 200,000 to two million Pagans and Wiccans in the country.

Before you actually have the Big Conversation, think about what you're going to say. As silly as this sounds, know what you believe. After all, if your family members ask you questions, you better be able to answer them if you want to be taken seriously. Make sure you've done your homework beforehand. Some people use a Year and a Day as their study time before even questioning about coming out.  They may want to know what you believe about the Divine, reincarnation, spell work or even if you hate Religion now that you're Wiccan. Have an honest answer ready.

Some people may say, "Hey, you're a Wiccan. What the heck is that, anyway?" Tell them what you believe, something like, "A Wiccan is someone who honors both a god and a goddess, who reveres and honors the sacredness of nature, who accepts personal responsibilities for their own actions, and who tries to live a life of balance and harmony." If you can give them a clear, concise answer (notice that there's nothing in there about what Wicca isn't) that's usually good enough for most people. At the very least, it will give them something to think about.
Print some of your answers out if that helps.  One Witch made a chart of the main points on her family's religion vs her spirituality path (birth, creation, marriage, dietary, salvation, death, sexuality, Satan).  I have a copy if anyone would like one.  There are many books, videos and online information available that might also help.  Think about the location also.  A nice quite place a home or a moving vehicle where you could get in an accident?

Try to plan out a few things ahead of time.  Why come out now?  Has the topic already come up?  Where to come out?  A park, home or other meaningful place.  When to come out? At night when everyone is home or at a park in the day when only some people are around.  Don't pick a major holiday, like Christmas, as a time to come out.  How to come out?  Just sit them down and say it.  Drop a few hints before like wearing jewelry.  Don't just tweet them the news, in fact you may want all electric devices off at the time.  Think of this as a ritual set up, just don't use those terms quite yet in front of them. 

If you've decided that coming out is still the right choice, the obvious place to start is at home, where there are people who love you and care about you.  You're the one who knows your family best, so you may be able to gauge how they're going to react. Is there a chance you could cause a lot of family discord by coming out? Will your spouse threaten to divorce you? Could you get kicked out of the house?  Could you be in danger?  If you are in danger, please find help.  There are support groups online, some of the police here I know are Pagans or just talk to someone you trust about any danger of any kind you might be in. 

When you do sit down to finally have the Talk, focus on remaining calm.  Stick to your studies, notes, videos or whatever was in your plan.  But also be ready to be flexible and go with what comes up.  Your family needs to see you're still the same happy and well-adjusted person you were yesterday. Show by the way you behave and conduct yourself that you're still a good person, despite the fact that you may have a different spiritual path than everyone else in the house.
Once you've come out to your family, you can come out to your friends gradually. You might want to start by wearing a piece of religious jewelry and seeing who notices it.  Don't carry the large witch books around and drop it on their desk or scream it to them from across the street.  Pagans, unfortunately, already have a negative view in some religions.  Going for the shock value, at home or with friends, will not help yourself or anyone else. 

You may find that some of your friends are confused by this choice you've made. They may feel hurt that you haven't talked to them about it before, or even a little betrayed that you couldn’t confide in them. The best thing you can do is reassure them that you're telling them now, because you do value their friendship.

While you are certainly protected against religious discrimination at work thanks to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the fact is that some people may experience some retaliation if they come out at work. The US Military and Government does also recognize Wicca as a religion and it is protected against discrimination and violence.  But it's going to depend on where you work, what sort of people you work with and whether or not there's anyone who'd like to see you fired.
Your spirituality is private and personal and while there's nothing wrong with wearing a crystal on a chain around your neck, there's very little benefit to actually coming out at work.  If it does come up, stay calm and be honest.  If needed, an attorney can be consulted for legal advice and/or actions.

Bear in mind that there may be people in your life who are not going to be happy with your choice. You can't change their minds; only they can do that. The best you can do is ask for tolerance, or at the very least, a lack of a hostile environment. Don't waste your energy protesting against someone who's convinced you've made a wrong decision. Instead, show them by your actions and deeds that your choice is the right one for you.

You're the only one who can decide how and when to come out. You can wear a big shirt that says "Yes, I'm a Witch, Deal With It!" or you can gradually leave hints for people who are astute enough to spot them. Remember that for some people, you may be the only Pagan or Wiccan they've ever met. If they have questions, answer them honestly and truthfully. Don't be rude or force the issue.  Be open, let them join or watch a ritual or just give them time the think about it.  Be the best person you can be and perhaps you will be able to pave a path for the next Pagan in their life who is considering coming out of the broom closet.

It's a New Year, where will your path take you?


Worldwide Wiccan Coming Out of the Broom Closet January 15

National Pagan Coming Out of the Broom Closet May 2


Out of the Broom Closet: 50 True Stories of Witches Who Found and Embraced the Craft by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

Rocking the Goddess: Campus Wicca for the Student Practitioner by Anthony Paige

When Someone you Love is Wiccan by Carl McColman



Non-Pagan Friends

Pagan Roots in America

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