International Pagan Coming Out Day

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 2, 2012 — 16 Comments

Today, May 2nd, is Pagan Coming Out Day. An even initiated “to achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.”

Check out IPCOD’s Guide to Coming Out authored by Drake Spaeth, PsyD. You may also wish to read endorsements from Pagans like T. Thorn Coyle, Phaedra Bonewits, Arthur Hinds, and many more at the IPCOD site and IPCOD’s official Facebook page.

“Recently I have re come out of the closet. I’ve been rebranding my core business and in the process of doing that, I’ve realized that I’d hidden part of myself away to fit in, and it didn’t make me feel good, because not only was it denying a past choice I’d made, but because it wasn’t realistic. If you search for me on Google, you’ll find evidence that I’m an occultist fairly quickly.

Re-coming out the closet has been good for me. I feel like I’m in touch with a part of myself that I’d buried away and allowed to be buried. I’m not listening to fears or worries because I realize that if people choose to not do business with me because of my choices its actually better for me.

I’m out of the closet because I’m proud to be an occultist. I’m proud to be myself. There’s no shame in my choices and the intolerance of others is not something I will support by choosing to hide myself for their benefit. If I make that choice I am denying an essential part of who I am and denying my community as well.”Taylor Ellwood, Magical Experiments

IPCOD founder Cara Schulz, who came out as a Pagan in a police station, has this to say about the importance of Pagans coming out of the “broom closet”.

“When we’ve talked to people about this project, the number one question asked is why should Pagans come out? Should is not a word we use when talking about the decision to come out or not. Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you’re mentally and emotionally ready to do so. Pagan Coming Out Day is not about shaming other Pagans and polytheists into coming out when they’re not ready.

Rather than talk about ‘should’ – let’s look at the benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, to coming out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety in your life caused by living a double life, developing closer, more genuine relationships with friends and family, and developing a positive self-image. It’s stressful to hide a core piece of who you are from those around you. Another benefit is one that the LGBT community has experienced – a reduction in prejudice. In a study for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers found that, “heterosexuals tend to hold favorable attitudes if they know two or more gay people, if those people are close friends or immediate family members, and if there has been open discussion about the friend or relative’s sexual orientation.” This is why the LGBT community strongly encourages its members to “Come out, come out, whereever you are” – because it works for them in their struggle for equity. This is also why LGBT Pagans are often the most vocal in our community about the need for Pagans to come out. Being open and honest about our spirituality encourages a climate of greater tolerance and acceptance of Paganism as more people realize they know a friend and loved ones who are Pagan. But there are risks, too, and each person will have to access the risks and benefits unique to their own situation.”

Some have expressed skepticism at the need for a Pagan “coming out” day. The problem, I think, comes from what we mean when we say “out” (or “in” for that matter). I’ll be frank and open about the fact that I advocate for Pagans coming out of the “broom closet”, and have publicly advocated this position when I give talks at events. However, being “out” doesn’t necessarily mean plastering your car with bumper stickers, interjecting your faith into every conversation, or ostentatiously wearing a pound of Pagan “bling”. It certainly doesn’t mean placing yourself or your children in immediate danger if those are your circumstances. It means not living a double life, it means being out to your family, even if it’s uncomfortable, and it means being willing to request and expect equal treatment in the workplace.

“Pagans should be mindful of the experience of the BGLT community. Specifically, that there’s nothing like knowing someone who is BGLT, particularly a relative, to humanize BGLTs. This is as important for us as for them: without being humanized we’re abstractions in someone else’s hostile theological theories. The more of us that are out, the more humanized we become.” – Dave Burwasser, Board Member Emeritus CUUPS  and IPCOD Board member

Pagans being “out” about who we are to those who love us, to those we interact with on a daily basis, changes the world. Even the conservative Christian polling organization The Barna Group acknowledges this in their research.

“About 5% of America’s adult population associates with faiths other than Christianity (e.g., Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.). Within this group, about half (47%) were registered as Democrats, 30% were independent, and one-quarter (23%) were Republicans. The ballots of this group were most often cast for Barack Obama (62%) rather than John McCain (36%). The support provided to the Democratic candidate is identical to the backing this group provided to John Kerry four years ago (61%) …Among voters who had a favorable view of Wicca, Sen. Obama was the favored candidate 64% to 35%.

It is important to look at the language in that last line. It isn’t about Wiccans specifically, but people who had a “favorable view” of Wicca. To further extrapolate, the family, friends, and co-workers of the estimated 1 million modern Pagans in America tended to favor the candidate favored by the majority of modern Pagans. But this isn’t just about voting and politics, it is about eradicating stereotypes and altering perceptions. It’s about changing the strange biases and assumptions that even “tolerant” people have about modern Pagan faiths. It’s about not being thrown under the bus because “there isn’t a Pagan in our office/school/organization”. Again, coming out won’t be a panacea for every Pagan, but if all who are willing and able took one day to say “I’m a Pagan”, to humanize our often misunderstood religions, it could change more than any of us realize.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I serve in an advisory capacity on IPCOD’s executive board. I’m working with this project because I think a unified effort towards ‘coming out’ is a needed one, a complimentary movement to our already vibrant Pagan Pride days. I hope you’ll support IPCOD today, and help spread the word.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Cara

    This year’s Pagan Coming Out Day has already been so wonderful.  People are showing support for those coming out by posting the IPCOD logo and adding “No one should have to hide their religion due to fear of discrimination and violence.  I support Pagans who choose to come out today!  http://pagancomingoutday.org”  

    The facebook page is filling up with messages of support and people sharing their stories of when they came out – years ago or this very day.  We are also posting links to blog posts.  Some are very supportive of IPCOD others find it problematic.

    While we are celebrating those taking a step out of the closet, let’s also consider those who are not yet able to make that step.  The hope is that one day soon, Pagan Coming Out Day ceases to exist because there is no longer any need.   

  • Kilmrnock

    Aye , we should all be as out as you can personaly be . In my private life , to family etc i am out . The only place i can’t be completly out is work . I help run a second generation family shop , I cant really be out in the business . Otherwise i have been out for 15 years , as others have stated it is a liberating experience . Also for me was the ability to be true to myself i find quite important .I personaly would rather be completly out  but that would hurt the shop, where i live is southern , lots of HD Christians around here . I also agree the more of are out , the more folks will  meet and get to know us . Thats the first step to acceptance and tolarance . Kilm

  • Sean Woods

    I think the idea and need for IPCOD is great. I do however think that we as a community have not done a good job of promoting the event  and what it is all about in our communities. Most of the Pagan’s I have talked to about the event had never herd of it until I mentioned it. I have posed the question to many how can we as a community do a better job in promoting it and getting the word out there?

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

       That’s the purpose of word-of-mouth, though.  Cara Schulz and others directly involved in the project have done a great job promoting it, I think, but in all honesty, the rest is up to the community.

      If you’re on FB, Twitter, PaganPlace or other sites, use that to promote it.  I mean, consider the story of Jobriath; his label spent a small fortune promoting his album, but the public was unreceptive, so few people bought his record —but of those who did, the chain still continues of people who tell their friends about it, and then tell their friends, and so on.  Basically, those backing a project can do all the promotion in the world, and will still be dependent on word-of-mouth to get people to acknowledge it. 

      If you think the community needs to do more to promote the event, start with becoming what you want to see.

      • Sean Woods

         I fell very much like I have been promoting the event. I have been using word of mouth and social networking to do so. I also fell that by asking the question how can we help spreading the word we are spreading the word.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

     “I had rather know than be known.” Francis Bacon

  • Amanda

    *sigh* Maybe I can come out when I have a more stable job, but right now, it just seems too risky, especially in the very conservative area where I live. I’m already worried about that deal where employers now want to look at your Facebook if you want a job with them. Then they could tell I’m a pagan just by looking at what my friends post.

    Maybe I’m being too paranoid. Maybe people wouldn’t care. But in this economy, I don’t want any extra strikes against me.

    Congrats to the people who have been able to come out. Hope I can join you soon.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/73WYVJX4ZTBEQFVISYU74QIXZ4 Cathryn

       Amanda and Jess, blessings to you.  Discernment is a virtue, and everyone’s circumstances are different.  Your posts are beautiful examples of why those of us who can be out of the closet cannot and must not judge those who can’t.  You deserve better, and we must all work for that day.

      Cathryn Meer Bauer

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

       [hugs]

    • Jim Pearson

      Dont worry about it Amanda and Jess. In this day and age and the lack of understanding a lot of people have about us it is understandable how it is just not possible for some of us to be as open as we would like to be about or faith and beliefs. 
      Maybe one day the veil will be fully lifted from the eyes of the ignorant. Until then those of us who can be open about who and what we are will continue to “try” to help raise the veil.

      Blessings Jim 

    • Shakti_Mandrake

      I still keep that private at work as well and i understand. I too live in a conservative area and understand all too well the possibility of discrimination. I wish you safety and happiness

  • Jess

    I wish I could come out of the broom closet too. But right now, I just have to suck it up and pretend I’m a Christian so I can continue to keep my job. I’m already suspicious that a previous co-worker was fired for being Muslim (although the agency was citing that it was based on their relations with the other staff), and I really don’t want to be next on the chopping block.  *Coughs* Yeah, the economy has really went down the crapper…

    Thankyou all for coming out and being an inspiration to us, and I also hope to be out of this very cramped closet someday!

    • Joshthepagan

      Just don’t wait too long or it will never happen, like with most things in life.  Look on the bright side I guess, you won’t be burned at the stake anymore. =)

  • Shakti_Mandrake

    For years I hid my own beliefs from all but a few close friends, but earlier this year (after much don’t ask don’t tell family encounters) I let my family know my beliefs. At first there was concern and some resistance in my not “believing hos I was raised.” I took the time.to get basic info from cuups and books like Cunningham and presented it as I would a scholarly paper. My family has not given me any more resistance about my altars, attending festivals, or raising their grandson pagan. As I told them, I have a job, masters degree, no criminal issues and have raised a great kid, so obviously my spirituality has a positive influence

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      What a beautiful story. Good for you and good for your family!

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      That’s a great story, and hopefully one that can be inspiring to others.