This is a rant. I am not going to do a bunch of research like I usually do; I am going to just blurt out my opinion and some arguments to support it at the speed of type, and some of you aren't going to like it. So here it is: I don't like the broom closet because I believe it is dangerous. I think everyone in the broom closet should get over themselves and get the hell out. Unless you live somewhere where being Pagan is against the law, there's no good reason to keep it a secret and doing so is damaging to you and the Pagan community as a whole.
In my opinion, anyone in the broom closet is either A.) Not really sure they want to identify themselves as Pagan so they can change their minds without anyone giving them a hard time about it OR B.) Selfish and cowardly.
Now before you get all excited, you should take a minute to let me explain my position. And here it is: Everyone who hides the fact that they are Pagan reinforces the idea that Pagans are a myth. As long as we are myths, we will never be taken seriously. If you are in the broom closet, you reinforce the myths and do nothing to battle the stereotypes. You are hurting your fellow Pagans to protect yourself. That is selfish and cowardly. Right now the best justification people who realize we do exist have for not taking Pagans seriously is stereotypes associated with Paganism. For example; Pagans are all just experimental teenagers rebelling against the norm who will eventually grow out of it. Pagans are all a bunch of hippies who take their drug induced hallucinations too seriously. Paganism is a made up religion to give people an excuse to act in ways that other religions do not accept. If all Pagans were "out", more Pagans would have an easier time of it. People who stay "in" out of fear or the desire to avoid being annoyed are the definition of cowardly and selfish because they are thinking only of their own comfort and not that of the good of the community as a whole.
The fact is, the reason most people get flack about being Pagan is that most folks don't know what a Pagan is or have some preconceived idea about Pagans from some story that someone told them at some point. If every Pagan came out of the closet and identified themselves as Pagan then everyone would know that your neighborhood Pagan is just like your neighborhood anyone else. No big deal.
Most disturbing is when I hear people talking on Pagan parenting sites about how to teach their children to keep their secret. In essence they are trying to teach their kids to lie. This is ridiculous and a horrible message to send to impressionable young children. Really folks, unless it's illegal, there's no reason to lie about it. For example, if you have a meth lab in your basement, you should probably teach your kids to lie about that. If you run a child pornography operation, you'll probably want to teach them to keep that secret too. But about your religion? In America? Are you friggin' kidding me? When you teach your kids to lie and keep secrets about one thing, it's easier for a predator to convince them to lie and keep secrets about something else. And your child may wonder if he's keeping a secret about something that mommy and daddy are doing because it's bad. The answer to this is not hiding your religion from your child, either. Lying to your kids may make them worry that you're doing something wrong, or that you don't trust them because they WILL find out some day. They live with you, after all. It also models the behavior of lying. If you are shooting to raise a little pack of liars, this is a good way to go.
Now I'm not saying you should run around with a big Pagan Pride banner and announce your religion to everyone who will listen. Those people do just as much damage to the reputation of Pagans as a whole by just being annoying as the hiders do by pretending we don't exist. For the most part, religion isn't anybody's business. But if it comes up in conversation, go ahead and share. If your child's school wants her to do an essay what she did over winter vacation, have her go ahead and tell it like it was. Pretending to be something you aren't is unhealthy and lying is wrong, I don't care what religion you are. Be who you are- So your children can be who they are. Because nothing is ever going to change if half of us are hiding.
I know it's uncomfortable. I know it's scary. But your family is your family and they'll get over it because they're your family and they're stuck with you no matter what. Your employer can get in a whole lot of trouble for not getting over it, so can your child's school. If your child doesn't get picked on because she's Pagan, she'll get picked on because she's too short, too fat, too tall, too skinny, flat-chested, big-breasted, frizzy haired, flat haired, red haired, freckled, pimpled, dark, pale, talks funny, speaks properly, has an accent, has a lisp, dresses funny, wears hand me downs, wears expensive clothing, reads too much, or something because children are cruel little buggers and everyone has to deal with getting picked on for something. And your neighbors probably think you're weird anyway, you might as well give them something else to talk about.
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Comments, questions, criticism?