It seems to me that people are a lot more concerned about being in the broom closet than they used to. I keep reading articles about how to “come out” – articles sporting what I consider really bad advice. Lose the victim attitude people! Most people who are supposedly “in the closet” have very little to worry about. Those who are really, do, and must weigh the options before announcing themselves. “Out” is not for everyone.

It’s okay for people to not like your religion

What? Shock! Outrage! Most neo-pagans are so quick to stand-up against those who are ignorant of them yet put down Christianity at every opportunity. I find many of my peers to be hypocritical.

There’s a reason we choose the religion we do – it’s because we think ours is right, is best, is most fulfilling. There’s nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, it is not right to insult other religions and to impose upon everyone else’s right to choose, but that doesn’t always stop others. Often enough it’s best to take preventative measures by not bringing up religion at all. This is not due to us “fearing our Pagan roots”. It’s about knowing best when to speak and when to keep silent.

There’s a difference between privacy and the broom closet!

Our religion is an important and private part of our lives. It’s personal. There should be things you don’t want to run your mouth off to others. Do you talk explicitly about your sex life to others – I hope not. It’s just as crass as talking incessantly about your religion.

In the broom closet at the workplace? Impossible. Everyone should be in the closet there – it’s none of their business. Work is a completely inappropriate place to discuss matters of such personal importance. Keep your private life private.

Who’s in the broom closet, anyway?

Bad news – just people around you don’t know you’re a Witch/Pagan/Gay doesn’t mean you’re in the closet.

You’re in the closet:

  • if you’re making a real, desperate effort to hide the truth from your spouse and/or immediate family
  • if you regularly lie about it, put on an act that compromises you integrity, makes you feel ashamed of yourself after (like going to Church when you don’t believe, like a gay man carrying on a relationship with a woman for the sake of appearances)
  • if you are really afraid of what others will think

I think that most of the above are real psychological problems that have to be dealt with – they can really hamper us and make us unhappy.

I can’t help but feel that those in the closet – really in the closet – need to work on their self-perception and self-confidence before really coming out. They also need to work on their relationships – if a person doesn’t respect you enough to make your own life choices, are they really a healthy contributor to your life?

Even worse, if those people are your parents or siblings or lovers, do you love them so much that maybe it’s worth lying to them? I really think that this is an unfortunate but understandable option.

Sometimes discretion is polite and considerate

My extended family has no idea of my religion choices, although I can feel somewhat certain that at least half of them would mind their own business. The other half would be ultra-concerned. My grandmother would probably have been very frightened for me – it always upset her that I was never baptised as a child, because that meant I would never go to heaven. I never told her of  my religion because I loved her. I keep quiet to save my family from their own ignorance and paranoia.

I never told my parents when I was younger, I didn’t want to hear from them that it was stupid, or a phase. I also didn’t know how to define this new area of interest to them in a way they’d understand. They’d have worried someone was going to take advantage of me.

Over the years, my mother hs interrupted me during ritual, seen different items and books in my bedroom, and has seen me erect those very things in my own appartment. We’ve never directly discussed what those things meant and at this time I don’t feel we need to. She respects my privacy and trusts my judgement to not be involved with the wrong sort of crowd. Whether she’s discussed it with my father I have no idea.

I’ve told my brothers that I call myself Pagan and Witch. All of my best friends know, some care and understand more than others. A few past co-workers-turned-good-aquaintances know. I’m involved with the local pagan community. My partner is not Pagan but accepts that I am – he’s even participated in rituals with me.

I don’t consider myself to be in the broom closet even though most people I speak to on a daily basis have no idea.

The Broom Closet is a bad place to be.

It’s not bad because people are stifling your religious rights, but because it makes a person feel small, unimportant and unloved. I think it’s also a very difficult situation to get out of.

A lot of people complain they’re in the closet and can’t be open about their religion. Being open doesn’t mean having it tattooed to your forehead or showing off excessive amounts of jewelry. When the subject comes up in an important situation, you should be able to discuss your values with those important to you without being degraded.

There are those who don’t come out of the closet because it’ll overturn the lives of those around them and themselves. These people have difficult decisions to make and for the most part might be better off hiding their spiritual life from those who wouldn’t understand.

Others don’t come out because they’re afraid to defend themselves, because they can’t handle negative reactions. People are allowed to react negatively and often enough they mean well. Neo-pagans must adjust to this. It will make them wiser and better all-around people.

To those who write article about coming out of the closet, stop sprouting suggestions like it’s easy as pie. Everyone’s situation is different and there are some good reasons to really be in the closet. There are many more reasons to be discreet and moderate. Shouting “I am Pagan, hear me roar!” from the rooftops will never help our collective pagan situation.

We shouldn’t be pushing our our peers our peers to come out. We cannotunderstand just how different their circumstances are from ours. Instead, live your life and speak of your craft as though you were speaking on behalf of all Pagans and Witches. Let those who wish to remain silent be so.