Coming Out Of The Broom Closet

For some Pagans or Witches, the idea of telling friends, family, co-workers or others around them what or who they are seems terrifying. As a Pagan, a Witch and a member of the LGBT community, I would say most Pagans face about the same level of fear when coming out as member of the LGBT community usually do. You may face discrimination, anger, fear, and even violence on occasion. You may risk loosing your friends, and even your job. And worse is when overly fearful family members choose to remove your from their lives. Unfortunately, it all happens. I've even heard stories where neighbors came to violence after discovering there was a Pagan living next door.

Personally, I have never been afraid to announce my faith. But I too have faced some opposition from people close to me over it. My grandmother at one point refused to allow me in her house. My mother constantly makes nasty remarks about my faith... And my own husband won't talk about faith for the most part because he's not completely comfortable with it - of course he really isn't comfortable with his own faith either... So while I was never really "in the closet" I do understand the fear surrounding coming out of it.

And honestly, I'm not going to tell you it's always the best idea. Sometimes screaming your faith from the roof may sound like a good idea, but the issues it causes simply aren't worth the trouble. So I am going to encourage your to thoroughly think through your choice to come out before you proceed in doing so.  While telling your Bible thumping boss that you couldn't give a rats ass about church because your Goddess doesn't require you to go, if it's going to cost you a job that you need to feed your kids, is it really worth it?

I suggest you consider these points BEFORE you decide to explore the possibility of "coming out."
  • WHY do you want to come out? Is it because you have an honest to goodness pride in your faith or because you want to shock your family or cause drama with your friends?
  • How will the people in your family, circle of friends or at your job react? Will they be accepting or ban you from their home? Are they strict in their faith or more lax? 
  • Are you facing a situation where they will find out without your telling them? 
Regardless of your why, and even how you believe they may react, you need to be positive that the benefits of your coming out outweigh the risks. Because there is simply no going back once you make that announcement!

Now, by no means am I suggesting that you should stay where you are, lie about who and what you are and keep your true beliefs and feelings about things to yourself. Instead I'm asking you to simply ensure that, before you take this step, you make sure it's the right one for YOU. If you're not at the right point in your life or if this isn't the right time for you, you always have the option to come out later.

So, lets talk about HOW to come out...

First, lets consider coming out to family. For many people the idea of hiding who they are from their family is quite painful. Many people consider their family to be the most important people in their lives and do their best to have strong healthy relationships. Because of this it's sometimes difficult to keep the truth about who you are to yourself, even if you know the truth may cause some drama.

Especially if you have a family with strong religious convictions it's important to approach this subject delicately. Stomping in and saying "I'm Pagan and you better learn to deal" isn't usually the best option! Consider who you want to tell first. Generally I find it best if you "divide and conquer" on this issue. If you have a sibling, cousin or other family member who you are extra close with or who is more "open minded" than others, it's usually best to talk to them first. They can help give you support, encouragement and guidance when it comes to how best to approach the issue with your other family members.

While I can't tell you exactly what you should say to family, it's usually best to get them in a pleasant situation first. Blurting out in the middle of an argument that "Oh yeah, by the way, I'm a witch!" has never made coming out easy for ANYONE!

It's best to let family members know you want to talk to them about something important and have them sit down. I've also found that food helps for just about any important "talk" like this! Sit them down and tell them that you have something to tell them and you would like a chance to express everything you have to say prior to them reacting. While that does tend to put people on edge it also tends to allow you to get the entire thought out before someone jumps in with "My Daughter Is NOT A Witch! I won't have it!!!"

I do suggest you plan what you want to say! You may even want to write down some notes or even your entire announcement. Make sure to go beyond "I'm Pagan." You'll want to explain some basics. What does it MEAN that you're a Pagan? For the most part, the only thing people know about Paganism is what they see in movies or hear about at church, which will give them a deserved cause for worry. I mean, think about where they are coming from - if all you hear is Pagans are devil worshipers who sacrifice children and pets and attend orgies in the woods while high on X, would you really want your family member being one?  I wouldn't. So you need to express what it means to you and what it will mean to and for them.

It's also important to at least decide, even if you don't include it in your explanation to them, how you feel about some basic factors... For example, do you believe in Jesus, how do you view God, what do you believe happens after death, how do you view spell work, divination and magick, if you have children do you plan to or do you involve them... And so on... Do your research on your families faith, if you don't already know it well, and know what the common teachings on such things as how they view other faiths, death, birth, and so on BEFORE you decide how to answer their questions about them.

Words like Witch, Pagan, Wicca, Druid and the like are usually very misunderstood and become "hot button" words in conversations like this. So it's sometimes best to keep them to a minimum. Now, I DO think it's important to use them, but don't over do it. Be conservative about how you use and how many times you use these terms to avoid some of the shock factor.

You'll need to understand that this news may come as a shock for them and they will need to both vent their feelings and question your choice. EXPECT IT! And do your best to respect their feelings and understand that this can be both a scary situation and quite overwhelming for them. Do your best to answer their questions kindly and calmly!

If things get heated, I greatly suggest calling a "truce" for a day or two and coming together later after everyone has a chance to calm down.

When it comes to friends, the process is in most ways very much the same. However, friends tend to be slightly more accepting to things like this than family are. Family tends to have very specific expectations of who they want you to be because they believe it is their job to shape you as a person. While friends tend to love you for who you are rather than who they think you are or who they believe you are. BUT, that said, like the old saying says "Blood is thicker than water." Meaning while family will always be family, friends can start ignoring your calls within hours of shocking news.

Coming out to friends don't actually have to be quite a serious as the "family coming out" is. You may chose to simply stop hiding it and let them come to you with questions. Or, you may choose to do a "coming out lunchin" where you can talk to them all together. Really, it depends on you and your friends. Regardless of how you choose to do it, I greatly suggest you prepare in much the same way you did with your family. Try and focus on how you feel about the big ticket issues and keep their feelings in mind when you answer their questions.

When it comes to work, personally I don't see "coming out" as a big deal. Unless you work for a religious business or organization I feel it's best to simply stop hiding your faith - if you choose - and answer questions if and when they come. For the most part, people prefer not to discuss religion at work, so it's generally not an issue unless you want someone to cover for your shifts while you go to Esbat Rituals or something...

All that said, it IS beneficial to KNOW YOUR RIGHTS before you decide to take ANY steps towards coming out at work. If you are in the US, it's generally illegal to fire someone based solely on their faith. BUT, depending on your state, your employer may not need a reason to fire you. So if you have an overly Christian boss, you will want to know what you can and can't do before you decide to wear a pentacle to the office. It's also worth it to think through how can opposing co-workers make your life at work miserable simply because of their feelings. So take all things in to consideration prior to deciding to make any changes that could affect your job. INCLUDING what would happen if you did loose your job because of this issue. **As I said this is usually not legal, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen, especially if you work for a private company.

In the end it comes down to just ONE thing - How YOU feel about coming out. If YOU don't feel your 100% ready, and YOU don't feel comfortable telling your family, friends or co-workers, DON'T! If on the other hand you can honestly say "I am 100% ready and sound in my faith and want to include my friends and family in this aspect of my life" then go for it... And remember, you don't have to tell everyone you know in 48 hours. You don't even have to tell everyone you know. If you have friends that you simply don't feel will take the news well and you prefer not to tell them, you don't have to.

This is about YOU, as much as it is about them, really more. So make sure that YOU are ready, sound in your beliefs and ready before you jump in...

5 comments:

  1. I have been part way out of the broom closet for some time. Most of my family and close friends know what path I follow. I guess you could say I was in the closet, but the door was open. Recently though, I have decided to come all the way out. I'm not screaming to the world that I'm a Witch, just not hiding it any more. I wear my pentagram outside my shirt, I'm decorating my home to honor my Gods, and I'm not monitoring my mundane facebook page any more. I decided to come out because I am tired of hiding the best part of me and forever looking over my shoulder worrying that I'm going to be found out. People will either accept me or not. The choice is theirs and so is the loss if they decide to cut me out of their life. For the first time since I started down this path, I feel free and comfortable with my life. The Goddess has a way of pointing us in the right direction when the time is right, or sometimes as in my case give us a good swift kick in the behind, but eventually She will get through and we will do what is meant to be.

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    1. Your experience sounds very similar to mine. I made the announcement that I was "A Witch" when I was 6. My mother did everything she could to force her faith on me and beat the witch out... I didn't completely know, at 6, what it meant to be a witch, but I knew I had found my path (thank the Goddess for our School library being built in the 70's) and at nearly 30, I have yet to feel I was in the wrong place!

      So I never really hid it. I had to be secretive about my practice and study while I was growing up, but everyone knew what I was. And once I turned 18, I left home and was able to stop hiding all of it.

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  2. I came out over a decade ago to my Bishop while I was a minister in a mainstream Christian denomination. Frankly, I just got tired of hiding. I was never afraid of being found out or fired. The two of us had a very nice discussion about it,actually, and the only question he had was how I felt about salvation, and I told him that I didn't believe in original sin because I didn't believe that God was that petty and small. He didn't disagree with me, he didn't fly into a rage- he actually said that he loved me and was sorry I was leaving the church, then he told me that faith was a personal matter and I should follow my heart. It was totally unexpected. He kept me on the books until I could get credentials as a Pagan minister.

    What my family thought didn't matter because we were already estranged over being a woman ordained to the priesthood. Frankly,I suspect it would have been more acceptable to them to know I was a witch. I don't make a big deal about it, and friends who are close know and those acquaintances I seldom see don't need to know. Ditto for those at work. Religion, politics and sex are off limits most of the places I've been employed because the jobs have been in an "at will" state where you can be let go at any time without prior notice so everyone wants their private life to be private.

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    1. Wow, you had seem to have had a very loving Bishop! I come from a very teeny tiny minded town where Catholic/Christian = acceptable and anything else = offensive, crazy, ignorant, yadda yadda... I was told - to my face - by a Catholic Priest that it wouldn't even matter if I "Came to Jesus" because at this point I had already damned myself!

      I'm not kidding when I saw there are over 40 churches in this town and the next, and less than 10,000 people between this and the next TWO...

      Can I ask if you've ever written about your experience? I would think something like that would be very inspirational to others who are in similar positions to where you were. And I would love to read it!

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  3. " I'm glad you have faith in something and I'm proud of you for sticking with it. Your devotion to your religion is inspirational. However, we do not share the same religion and for many personal reasons I'll never go back to Christianity but will respect you and your religion and hope you will do the same for me. I am a solitary Pagan."
    That was a message to my younger sister and she was the first (besides my husband who is an Atheist) person I came out of the broom closet to. This was a few days ago and I am glaringly new to being Pagan- Wiccan. I don't know much; but I know that I'm not in false satanic religion or broken and wounded like she told me I was. I am heart broken.

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