Privately Pagan:  In the Broom Closet

I’m “in the broom closet”.

It’s one of the most frustrating and difficult parts of being Pagan for me.  I live in the United States and I have rights and freedoms to practice my beliefs as I wish.  But, when it comes to being Pagan, there are consequences for being open and public about it.

We can easily find a story in the news about a Pagan woman losing her right to see her children, someone losing their job or passed over for a promotion, someone’s home being vandalized or threatened, or children being teased or ridiculed for their parent’s beliefs.  It isn’t fair.

The alternative of practicing privately isn’t any better – lying to family and friends (including spouses in many cases), using fake names (both online and in person), and avoiding cameras at Pagan gatherings and events – just to name a few.

I also know it’s why some people don’t show at my group’s events.

Like many others, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about coming out and how I would do it (many seem to post it to their Facebook page).  I’ve mentally prepared myself for what questions I might be asked and how I would answer them.  I’ve tried to think about who might have a problem with it, how my relationships with those I care about would be affected.  Most importantly, I think about how they will treat my family – my wife and kids.  What I usually decide, however, is I’m not sure it’s necessary for me to come out.

Let me explain.

Although I have the utmost respect for those that have come out of the broom closet, my goals are simpler.  I’m not interested in making sure everyone I know finds out I’m Pagan.  What I hope for is to simply be able to practice openly; to stop hiding it.  It’s a small distinction but it’s what’s important to me.  I’m generally very private about my beliefs anyway.

There are times, though, when I feel so connected to this path, times it brings me so much peace.  Those are times I want to share it.  But, I know I can’t, at least not with everyone.  Not everyone will react in a positive way.  They won’t be able to see past what they don’t understand.  They won’t see what I see, feel how I feel.   They haven’t taken the steps outside themselves, of what they know; the steps those of us who have traveled on another path know very well.

And there’s the rub.

By opening up to them I would have an opportunity to educate them, to show them.  This breeds understanding and, eventually, maybe even acceptance.  By opening up to them we eventually make it easier for others to follow.

This ends up helping our community.

Interestingly enough, since I’ve started on this path, only one person has ever asked me about my beliefs.  That person, a friend of mine, noticed something I posted online and asked me about it.  He found it interesting and was very supportive.  I suspect others also know – we’re not as good at hiding something as we think we are.

As hard as it can be, I believe living out in the open is good for us and helps our community.  I’m working on this.  I know that as I become more open I have a family and a community that supports me, both online and in person.  The signpost for me is I don’t need to shout out to the world “Hey!  Look at me!  I’m Pagan!  Deal with it!”.  I just want to be able to practice my faith the way I feel called to do so.

Are you in the broom closet?  If so, do you feel a call to come out?  If you’re out, how have friends, family and the rest of society treated you?