So…today is International Pagan Coming Out Day…and once again, its not really a big deal for me. I’ve never been “in the broom closet” and I’ve never felt the need to hide my theological opinion (honestly, it has never occurred to me to do so, from my first reading of Drawing Down the Moon at 13…)
And that isn’t because I live in some hippie paradise.
I was raised in the Midwest in a Christian family, in a town where there’s a church on just about every block and I now live in Pat Robertson’s backyard, where proselytizing is the second most popular activity after football. I was in the military and openly Pagan for six years…and was still promoted, several times (and I even swapped duty for holidays on occasion). My medical records say that I’m Pagan, my VA record says that I’m Pagan, and if someone asks my religion, I’ll happily tell them that I’m Pagan.
Realistically though, most people that I encounter on a daily basis as I carry out my day probably have no clue that I’m Pagan (unless they happen to overhear my daughter singing “The Goddess Loves Me” while skipping down the street instead of the more conventional Jesus version). To paraphrase Mrs. B’s “out” story from a while back, its not like I walk around introducing myself as “Hi, I’m Michelle and I’m Pagan!” I don’t wear a t-shirt and my path isn’t one for which a pentacle is representative. If someone asks what church I go to (far more common that asking “what religion are you?”), I tell them I go to a Unitarian Universalist church, because its true (and 99% of the time, they don’t actually care and are just making conversation). If someone tells me Merry Christmas, I don’t jump down their throat, I just say thank you, because I’m more than happy to have a great December 25th even if I don’t celebrate it as a religious observance. I don’t go out of my way to “act” Pagan, because there isn’t any such thing–Pagan is just a term that acts as a descriptor for a huge number of my religious beliefs. Honestly, I find the idea of making my religion a production to something akin to an inappropriate PDA, which is why I try not to bring up religion in places where it doesn’t belong–like the workplace or the line at the grocery store (which can be hard for me, since I find it so very fascinating).
Really though, I’ve just found that (even in Pat and Jerry’s home turf), most normal people really *don’t* care what religion you are. Some normal people might want to know out of curiosity, or for an intellectual discussion (exceedingly rare), or they might want to know for the purposes of figuring out what kind of holiday card to sent you, but most people really don’t care about your business that much anyhow. And the people that *do* care, are the ones that would hate you anyway. Because you’re white or because you’re not white, because you have long hair or short hair, because you’re fat or skinny, because you are too liberal or not liberal enough, or because you are gay or old or loud or wear white after Labor Day or are too sarcastic or something. Because haters hate. The dishonest ones just do it in the name of religion.
I’m not saying that the fear of things like having one’s children taken away over their religion is unrealistic or that losing one’s job for being found out as a Pagan doesn’t happen. It does happen–it hasn’t happened to me personally, but I do know people whose Paganism has become an issue in divorce cases or that have been ostracized socially or in the workplace. I may not have lost my job or had my kids taken away, but I still think about those things (I also happen to have faith that while the wheels of justice and karma work slowly, they do usually work)…and I’ve still experienced the little ignorant disrespects. Discrimination and bigotry happen. I can understand why some might fear the idea of coming out publicly as a Pagan. Being harassed for thinking and living outside the box hurts and its damaging down to the soul.
For me, it comes down to one thing–I’d rather be hurt than hide.
And I’ve been lucky to find that in taking the chance (though “taking a chance” never occurred to me at the time), its not that big of a deal.