Today, May 2, 2011, is the first ever International Pagan Coming Out Day. Organizers say that they are “working to achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every¬†community” by encouraging those who are able and ready to come out of the “broom closet” to do so. They feel that we can reduce stigma by putting a human face on Paganism, provide a voice for those Pagans who cannot yet come out, and basically open a dialog with the mainstream. I don’t know how much national media attention this day will garner since the news of Osama bin Laden’s killing was just announced last night, but it’s an interesting endeavor nonetheless and something that will at least get us Pagans entering into dialog with one another about this issue.
There are myriad opinions on whether we should come out or not, and even as to whether we should appropriate the GLBT language of “coming out” for something that is fundamentally different… and yet, not so different. Some make the argument that coming out as a witch is more dangerous to parents than coming out as GLBT, because of custody issues. Others say that it is hard to live in a society where the mainstream automatically assumes you are like them – whether that means straight or Christian. And that if we speak up when we can, we can avoid more senseless bullying in the future. Furthermore, it appears the reason it is “easier” to be GLBT these days than 20 years ago (in terms of employment, child custody, etc.) is precisely because they took the issue head-on and brought it out into the light for people to discuss. And yet they still face great challenges for equality in the US and elsewhere.
To get a deeper look at both sides of the Pagan coming out issue, I can point you to two very different blog posts. In the first, T. Thorn Coyle reminds us of Tempest Smith’s needless death by her own hand; she was just 12 when she hung herself in the face of relentless bullying at school because she was Wiccan. But Thorn makes much broader and more important points as well, encouraging us to look forward to the day when saying you’re Pagan is “no big deal” and people can just get over it and get on with their lives.
In the next, Serenity Athenina argues that coming out gradually is almost always the best policy, allowing people to get to know you and your beliefs a little at a time rather than surprising them with an in-your-face statement on a proscribed day. She believes making coming out into a “holiday” cheapens the experience somehow.
What about you? What are your thoughts on Pagan Coming Out Day? Are you more or less likely to come out because of this drive? What are your concerns about coming out if you haven’t? And if you have, what were the rewards and the difficulties?