IPCOD 2: Electric Boogaloo

First off, apologies for the tardiness of this post, but eh, what’re you going to do?

OK, now the real start:

I really do support this project. I think it’s a great idea, and unlike my humanoid meat-based house-mate, I don’t get offended every time the pagan & polytheist community “steals language from us GBLTs1” (if I’d been taking video whilst telling him about encountering people who used the question “are you Family?” to ask if I was pagan rather than Fag-tabulous, his fit would have a techno remix by now) —after all, there are clearly some parallels to the institutionalised discrimination, and there really isn’t any better way to put it.

That said, I don’t need to “come out” on 2 May, since everybody who needs to know, knows, and it’s not like I’m writing under a pen name, so even if you don’t need to know, it’s not like you’d need to hire Sam Spade to find out. That said, I don’t fault the closeted, I fault the society that created the need for closeting —as I’ve said before. On the other hand, I will blame whiners for whining.

Like, take this perfectly lovely post on The Wild Hunt. It’s a great article, and makes a lot of wonderful points about everything (yes, dears, everything), and something like half the comments (as of right now) are just whining.

Let’s take the first guy, who can be summed up with “ZOMGZ, this is a nice idea… but… but… like… nobody knows about it? and how does the community want to address this? and like…? well, I ask how to and will imply heavily that no-one ever answers me in a way I like?”


Shut up.

Guess what? This is only IPCOD’s second official year. You know how many years that [GBLT] National Coming-Out Day was going before I’d heard of it? I dunno, at least twenty —and I was twenty-five at the time. Sure, NCOD has a great PR team, which helps immensely, but the biggest force spreading the word has pretty much always been those in the community who inform others by word-of-mouth. If you don’t think enough of your friends are talking about it, try telling them, offer to join a street team for it, do anything but whine to The Wild Hunt blog comments about how “people aren’t talking about it, and this needs to change”. Take some initiative and become the change you want to see.

Also: Guess what? We all know the economy sucks at least as much as you know it. Some of us who are “out” may even know it just a little bit more (cos if we were unemployable before… hoo, nelly!). As much as I understand that there is significant peace-of-mind earned from just venting on the personally-weighted impracticality you’ve assessed against coming out, and as much as I care that with every person who does come out, you are one person closer to potentially having a better situation in the future, I can’t help but feel like this is just raining on the parade, you know? I mean, people all over the world are willingly taking on a risk to potential employability, housing, child custody, family ties, and personal safety —and yeah, maybe some of those people are in a situation “more practical” than yours to take that risk with, but that, in no way, means that everybody is “safely” or “from a position of privilege” taking on that risk. And those who are taking on that risk, are taking it willingly and for the potential betterment of all. You have 364 days a year to whinge about how bad you’ve got it, while a basic search of TWH will show that this last twelve months alone has procured no shortage of relatively high-profile pagan child custody battles and not to mention employment discrimination and personal safety cases —again, this is only the cases that come across the desk at The Wild Hunt— who knows how many people are fighting for religious equality while remaining unmentioned by news media? These are all cases of clearly “out” pagans. Why do you need one more day of the year to tell me and other bloggers and all these lovely people fighting legal battles that we have it so great and you can tell because we’re “out”? Why can’t you just light a candle in solidarity and congratulate those who HAVE made the decision to out themselves, and return to your regularly scheduled program on the Third? Nobody is trying to make you do anything you’re uncomfortable with —and by this point, I think that mantra has literally been said a million times, when combining everybody who’s said it more than once— but I guess that’s not good enough. I guess now everyday has to be about whining about how “good” every “out” person has it —and you can tell they’ve got it made-in-the-shade, cos they’re “out”— which concurrently tends to imply that every mother fighting to retain custody just because she’s pagan is somehow a “bad parent”, every case of religiously-motivated employment discrimination is a case of “slacking off”, and every instance of religously-motivated violence and bullying against pagan adults and youth is somebody who “brought it on themselves”: Thanks for reminding people that being out is “TOTES a privilege”.

This day was not intended to do anything more than a community effort to encourage those who want to, to come out, and to celebrate that as a community —whether we’re “out” ourselves, or simply celebrating those who’ve volunteered that potential risk in silent solidarity.


1: pronounced like “giblets”


Parallel Closets

It isn’t impossible to hide one’s sexuality or gender identity, nearly eighteen years of DATD showed us that. And of course trans* service people still have to conceal their deepest selves even today.

What is impossible is having whole and meaningful connections with the world outside your closet doors.

So, I’m reading this post on Bilerico, and I can’t help but remember why I stand firm in my belief that being out is not “privilege” as the shamers amongst the Bourgeoisie want us to believe, it’s defiance —maybe the privilege of a loving family is a hollow one for the price of closeting, but the notion that being “out” is a privilege is a Bourgeoisie lie, designed to create an artificial rift between those enslaved to their closets and those who paid a hard price to be free of theirs. And the whole notion of being closeted “for love” is for only the the most empty kind of love you can get from a person; I mean, what kind of love demands that you keep a heavy door between you, never letting the two of you really see each-other, much less really touch and be touched by?

When Psykhe took the lamp into the bedroom of Eros’ crystal castle in the sky high above Helikon, and the tiniest bit of oil singed the beautiful God’s skin, He ran. He didn’t run from the pain, or simply the surprise of being woken up in such a way. He ran from the lack of trust. But at the same time, can She really be blamed? When we truly love some-one, any-one, we want to know them as much as we trust them. We don’t have to know everything, but we have this burning desire to know them, or as Genesis P-Orridge put it, to completely consume them and be a part of them and have them be a part of you. We cannot love from behind doors, we can only admire. Trust, knowledge… Love needs that vulnerability to exist, and until such openness is allowed, there exists little more than fondness.

From the trials of Psykhe, after breaking open Eros’ own closet of darkness, we learn that true love overcomes, making us more willing and indeed able to take in the whole person, love them even more, as with the more we learn, the more we have to fall in love with —be is romantic or familial.

Some might want us to believe the Capitalist lie, that love is a privilege to be earned, but indeed, it’s what makes the world turn —for Gaia so passionately loves Ouranos, that she twirls about in His arms forever as They dance the dance of Eternity around Helios’ shining orb, for even after that blazing ball consumes Them, they and Their love will live on. It was created freely in the womb of eternal night, and is given freely at alarming rates, often with neither rhyme nor reason. Some actions can cause love to end, but this is the most mortal form of love, and being mortal, we can’t help it when that happens —but the less mortal, more pure the love, the more willing it is to see that which sets us apart and love us all the same, or even all the more.

More thoughts on the International Pagan Coming Out Day:

The more I think about it, the more I like this idea — and additionally, the more I can see certain parallels with the GBLT Rights movements.

For those unfamiliar, the GBLT Right MovementS has historically been (and in many ways, still is) pretty far from a single unified movement — and the divisions are more numerous than some may think. Some of the most apparent divisions can be generalised as two ideals(1):

  1. “We may be ‘queer’, but we’re as normal as you are!”
  2. “We’re Queer! We’re here! Get used to it! (And fuck you!)”

Basically, a lot of tension amongst the Queer community can be boiled down to between those who want Acceptance and those who will Tolerance as long as their civil rights aren’t trampled on.

I’m seeing a lot of similar ideas bandied about in the threads I’ve read about International Pagan Coming Out Day (IPCOD, for short). I will say, I’m seeing a scant minority of people in the “Pro” arguments talking about genuine acceptance, but most seem pretty content with tolerance — conversely, I’d say most of the “Con” arguments are from those who believe that they already have tolerance, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that maybe they live in a town where they genuinely do, so that would mean that the civil rights and liberties that they are privileged enough to take for granted are something that many pagans elsewhere simply don’t have, and may never have until they are willing to come out, take a stand, and fight for it. Basically, the “Con” arguments are from people who, as one might say to a similar mind-set in the TS/TG community, “are letting their privilege show” — this is not a good thing, it’s a sign that, well, you’ve got yours and fuck everybody else, especially those who have to fight for the tiniest scrap of dignity you get to take for granted.

As much as I’d really like to say that I expect better from my co-religionists and those of other pagan and polytheist religions, the reality is that I’ve come to know this mega-community as very human, and humans are flawed creatures. Some humans can’t see past the end of their noses, and in doing so, assume that their rights and liberties are guaranteed to everybody, even when confronted with evidence that such simply isn’t the case.

As I pointed out in my previous post on this topic, in the United $tates and even some other countries, “freedom of religion” is little more than theory. Job and housing discrimination are hard enough to prove in places where it’s still allowed for certain reasons, much less in places where employers and landlords have to get creative about why they’ve coincidentally terminated your employment shortly after you requested Beltane or the Dionysia off, or why you’ve suddenly gotten an eviction notice the month after apartment maintenance came to fix the air ducts in the spare room you use for ritual. In theory, courts aren’t allowed to discriminate against religious choices in divorces that involve a child custody battle, but the fact that I’ve at least been conscious of North Amerika’s pagan community since the early 1990s and that I’m still hearing about the occasional mother deemed “unfit” coincidentally after her ex-husband brought up her Eclectic Wicca group in court is evidence that it’s obviously going to take at least another twenty years to get to a point where that’s not going to matter much, if at all. There is still a distinct cultural favouritism of Abrahamic religionists in North Amerika and elsewhere that ends up getting its inequality onto the legal system that promises freedom and justice for all.

As a Hellenic polytheist, I understand that the situation with religious freedom in modern Hellas is far worse than most Amerikans and Britons can even begin to fathom — to the extent that some people believe that you are socially better off to closet yourself as an “Atheist” than be honest about being a Polytheist, and that this hasn’t gotten better in a significantly noticeable way since joining the European Union finally, in 2006, stripped Hellas of her legal criminalisation of worshipping the ancient gods and goddesses. If for no other reason, THIS is why this needs to be an International event — not just for the United $tates, or North Amerika, or the Western Hemisphere, or the Anglosphere, but for all nations where religious civil rights and liberties get little more than lip-service, at best.

(1) This means I understand there are more complexities within this very generalised divide, but in my personal opinion, the majority of skirmishes in the GBLT communities can be boiled down as between two very different ideals for the movement.

On the proposed Pagan Coming Out Day

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!