Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Coming Out

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," home page of Anne Johnson, She Who Believes in Everything! Don't believe me? Put it to the test! I don't even snicker when I drive through East Baltimore and see the window shrines to Elvis. Someone is drawing solace from meditating on a King, looking at his picture, and lighting candles to him. To me this is a sacred thing, and who am I to belittle it?

There's been some talk over at The Wild Hunt about having a Pagan Coming Out Day, where presumably anyone who considers themselves Pagan would openly declare their path to family, friends, and -- ulp -- workplace colleagues.

When I told my sister I had become a Druid, she asked if that meant I was going to slaughter kittens in a pentagram.

See? That could have snapped our relationship right there if I hadn't bitten my cheek and dug deep for the big, broad, flexible outlook.

Now we're down the road a few years, and Sis has come to a few faerie festivals. She calls herself a "Pagan Christian." I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but I do know that Sis has been more reflective on the people around her at her fundie church and has rejected their "legalistic" agenda. She has friended some of my Druid Grove members on Facebook. So I think "coming out" to Sis did help her to begin to question all those answers she was getting on "Focus on the Family."

But soft! What exactly does it mean to "come out" as a Pagan in the workplace?

My workplace is a public school. If my students were ever to ask my religion, I would evoke the First Amendment. I'm not Wiccan, so wearing a Pentagram is not an issue. I wear a wooden acorn on a hemp string at least twice a week, and my students sometimes ask me, "Why do you wear that acorn all the time?" I tell them I like trees. Which is true.

The reality at my particular school is that a great many of my students are Roman Catholic, and some of the rest are Evangelical Christian, with a smattering of Jehovah's Witnesses. Not only can I not "come out" to these kids, I have to be especially vigilant not to let it slip that I'm a Pagan. Do I need to sit here and tell you why it wouldn't work for me to be open about my Path? Because just now I have a workshop to attend, and I need to take a shower, and if you want more explanation you'll have to ask for it.

Having had extremely mixed results when I tell people I'm a Druid, I will go on record as not being supportive of a "coming out" movement. For Pagans, not for gays. The difference between Pagan and gay is that you choose to be Pagan. And as for closeted gays, I can totally see their point too.

Everyone's comfort level is different when it comes to discussing religion. My personal comfort level has declined over the past year, after I confided in a few teachers who I thought were friends, only to see them shun me and make snide comments about my apparel and behavior.

Remember that our U.S.Constitution gives you the right to worship in any way you please (or not at all) and does not demand that you reveal how you worship, to authorities, friends, or family. This, to my way of thinking, should be a personal decision on your part. The only pressure you feel to "come out" should come from within. Let your conscience be your guide.


Intense Guy said...

If folks were really and actually as tolerant as they claim to be - this wouldn't be an issue.

being the religion is a personal thing, I've no problem with keeping it private.

The evangelical crowd will feel otherwise - but they are wrong about a lot of things. I say that with great tolerance but will call the police to report trespassers harrassing me if some "Watchtower" distributers approach my front door and won't leave quietly and quickly.

Does some religion actually espouse "slaughter[ing] kittens in a pentagrams"?

Kathy said...

Coincidentally on the day of the Wild Hunt article my son and I had come out to my husband. (Before reading the article.) I was surprised and pleased to have his full support (him being a near-fundie Christian.) My older sister, an American Baptist minister, whom I thought would be supportive was condescending about the whole thing.

In this particular neck of the woods, I wouldn't be comfortable being openly Pagan because of the stronghold of fundamentalist Christians (of whom I used to be one.)

So I believe it's a personal thing and while I would like to meet more Pagans locally, I wish more people would keep their religious beliefs private.

Lavanah said...

Perhaps this is neither here nor there, but I do wonder sometimes if the proponents of the "coming out" movements are former members of evangelical or witnessing type religions. I've run into many people over the years, just dipping their toes in non-christianity and wanting to know; Where are the pamphlets to give out? How do you get others to join you?

Thalia said...

Well I'm one of those people who's come out at my various workplaces, but only because it was (relatively) safe to do so——I was up in Boston at the time working arty jobs at a couple different animation studios. I insisted on getting my religious holidays off (which they have to give you by Mass. law) and still was given a hard time about it.

But that's me. I went to work one Autumnal Equinox, figuring it wasn't that big a deal as far as the other main (Wiccanish) holidays went, but the next day I just felt dirty, like I'd compromised my most basic ethical foundation. And in a way I had. So after that I always told them (not asked, told) that I was taking those days off.

I got a load of crap from my asshole boss when I worked part time at a frame shop (though I still took them off). But then I wasn't afraid for my job all that much because it wasn't like my career or anything. Still, not fun.

I do think it is something of a duty to be out if you can. And I don't normally do 'duty'. But those of us who can be out and visible make it easier for the rest of us, I think.

Which isn't to say anything negative at all about those who can't (or even that I'm annoyed with those who can't). Safety is first, always. I have always had the luxury of having no one but myself to take care of, so being out does not affect whether say dependent kids eat or not. And I can't imagine being a public school teacher and faced with the idea of being out.

Although, knowing me, I genuinely think I would be. Not because I think I am particularly strong, but because given my personality there are certain things I must do, and one of those things is be true to my foundational ethics. I couldn't not, even if it meant ending up in the court system.

Anyway, I don't think anyone is asking people to come out if it is against their better judgement. That wasn't the read I got from Jason's article, anyway.

Jennifer said...

I agree with you. Religion is a choice and you can be shamed about it to kingdom come.

I'm pretty "out" in the town I live in, which is hippieish-liberal. None of my "normal" coworkers have commented on my pentacle ring, I've had witchy conversations in public at my volunteer job (much more hippie), nobody cares. But I'm certainly not dumb enough to come out to my relatives, except my mother and the one cousin who's married to a pagan.

The Traveler said...

I'm not out, but I'm not hiding. There are a few people I won't even tell on my death be. Ok realistically I would tell some of them on my death bed (mainly just because I want to see the look on their faces before I die, but I'm perverse like that). Others I may leave some sort of note in my will...
But as far as wearing a big badge or putting a sign in my yard? Ummm...NO!
There is a reason people felt there needed to be laws protecting the privacy of these issues. There are crazy people out there who are about as tolerant of different views as a rabid squirrel is of someone taking it's nuts. And for some reason the only ones in this country who have ready access to weapons and ammo are the crazies....

Maebius said...

I do wish that privacy concerns were a non-issue for folks. The whole "Why can't we all just get along?" does not apply nearly as well as it should.

That said, I do not make my spiritual path overtly private, but nor do I proclaim it from the mountains either. I tried setting up a little section of my corporate desk with a potted plant, a few pretty rocks, and a seashell and feather, (all fairly 'neutral' items IMHO) and was fairly quickly avoided by two of the customers I deal with regularly for job-functions. I asked if I offended them, and was answered with a sneering "I don't like associating with people like you, non catholics".
I tried to offer my open-mindedness as a former Luteran minister (and thus, Protestant, still-christian) but the distain is still there after two years.

It's rough, but I generally oppose a "coming out day" unless such things are valid for you, as an individual, in your particular situation. The power of a group-support like is implied with an official "day" is probably very useful to some, and thus, I encourage it.

Have I confused my reply enough? :)

Alexandra said...

I think its a bonus if you can be open because the goal of those who want to come out to all in-sundry is noble, it's to make it easier for the next person to do the same; thus my work colleagues know and are accepting (if slightly baffled) - but I have lovely work colleagues. I don't think it's necessary to marter yourself though if you know it will just cause anguish!
Some people know I'm Pagan, some don't. I've never hidden it especially but I just don't bring it up with some folks - like my husband's extended family who are mostly Christian and generally lovely people but they might feel the need to *save* me, and I don't need saving! Also I have no desire to convert anyone to my way of looking at the world - it works for me but if Jesus works for my cousin-in-law that's great. I figure there is more than one way to reach the divine.