I know, I know, as is my usual fashion with this sort of thing, I’m once again Late To the Party, but let me just say that I support this proposed International Pagan Coming Out Day. Now maybe it’s just my own familiarity with the GBLT community’s National Coming Out Day which is why my reaction to this idea isn’t one of groans, eye-rolls, party-pooping and just generally not getting it.
The idea of “coming out” may have first gotten major headlines with the GBLT community, and yeah, Wikipedia’s page on the topic may make it seem like said community has a monopoly on the idea, but when you boil down the idea of “coming out” to its basics, it’s a basic act of standing up and saying “I will NOT let the government or the overculture oppress me”. The first time I’d heard about somebody being “out” in a non-GBLT context, it was about a physical disability — something that isn’t always apparent (in her case, she was legally blind, but functional-enough that most people wouldn’t be able to tell at first glance). Disabled persons have a lot of oppressive shit to deal with, especially those with what’s called “invisible disabilities”, because it’s assumed that if you don’t “look disabled”, then you’re not, and ergo you “obviously don’t need assistance”, not even when you apparently do. I can understand “coming out” as having a disability — after all, if OKStupid’s tests have taught me nothing else, it’s taught me that, at least half the time, no, not even gay people can tell another gay person on sight (except with lesbians, seriously). If it’s that hard to sniff out other gays, what about other “invisible oppressions”?
The fact of the matter is, in the United $tates, there’s a lot of lip-service given to the notion of “freedom of religion”, but in practise, things really aren’t as open and accepting as is talked about in theory. Yes, the population of Christians is apparently going down (from ~86% in 1990 to ~76% last year), and Atheists are on the rise (up to a whole 1.something% — I’m betting it’s cos monkeys are awesome), but that 76% is still a pretty high majority — and it’s a majority that has an extremely vocal contingent hell-bent on making life hell for anybody who doesn’t fall in lock-step with that majority.
Now, I haven’t talked with Cara Schulz about this (word on the street is that she and I usually don’t play well), but here’s what I believe International Pagan Coming Out Day is and is not about:
- It’s about the recognition of non-Abrahamic, non-Eastern (as the overwhelming majority of Hindus, Buddhists, and so forth, tend to eschew the term “pagan” in their self-identification) religious minorities — it is NOT about sitting on your hands while you watch the government pay little more than lip-service to “Freedom of Religion’ while Christians dictate what’s going to be taught in allegedly-separate-from-church “State schools”.
- It’s about individuals, deciding on their own individual terms, to take a step that will hopefully breed a society that truly does tolerate all religions — it’s NOT about outing our fellow pagans without their consent. “Outing” people without their consent, be they Gay, Trans, or Pagan, really misses the point of a “coming out” day. While I personally agree with Cara’s opinion that some people really don’t have anything holding them back from coming out but their own fears, that’s really not for her or for myself to decide for another person. Only YOU can decide whether or not to come out to somebody on a “coming out day”, but just keep in mind that when you do, you may put yourself in a position to face oppressions you weren’t aware you were facing before.
- It’s about telling somebody you love that they if they’re going to love you in return, they should love YOU, not their fantasies about what you are or should be — it is NOT about a bunch of people “needing the approval of others”. If we truly needed “approval”, guess what? We wouldn’t be pagans! We’d be trying to fit in to whatever religion those with conditional love will accept.
Some things that should be obvious, but apparently need pointing out:
- This is not about “making a virtue” of wearing one’s weight in pentagrams and Thor’s Hammers, or whatever other religious symbols of choosing you may have — but if that’s your choice to wear said items, hey, an International Pagan Coming Out Day would be an appropriate time to wear it.
- This is not about coming out to everybody all at once, even if there’s no purpose to it — but again, if that’s what you want to do, no-one’s going to stop you. After all, only YOU can say who you’re coming out to and when. Do you want to come out to your sister and maybe your favourite professor this year, and your mother and boss next year? Totally appropriate! After all, gay people have been doing it like this for decades.
- Most importantly: This is NOT NOT NOT about shaming other pagans an polytheists into “coming out” when they’re not ready! Ask any gay person — this is a decision that only YOU can make, and it’s a decision best made when you’re mentally and emotionally ready to do so. If a co-religionist is trying to use shame to make you come out before you think you can handle it, then that person is no more a friend to you than those who would take your children away because of your religion.
- Furthermore, if you’re an initiate into an oathbound tradition that requires secrecy? Stop acting like this is somehow about you. Cos it’s not, it’s really not. This is so much NOT about oathbound cult that it’s ludicrous that allegedly oathbound-practitioners are even trying to debate this! Guess what? There are more religions under the umbrella of “pagan” than yours — and some of these are paths best practised as a fully-integrated aspect to one’s everyday life (like reconstructionist paths). If your religious life begins and ends at the ritual room, then you have far less reason to “come out” than a Heathen or Hellenistos who can (and probably does) make the simple act of bathing a tribute to a deity — you would also have far less to gain or lose by coming out to loved ones if your path is one that begins and ends in the ritual room.
So yes, I fully support this idea, even if I’m pretty much “out” to just about every-one who matters — but hey, there are people who matter a whole lot less I can still come out to, so I say bring it on!