Back in 2009, I joined my uni Pagan group. I was a sophomore, still rather new to the Pagan label, and hadn’t really told anyone except for the people in my uni Pagan group. I remember it was the spring equinox and I had just texted my mother that I might be home late that weekend. She asked why and I said that I was attending a student group meeting. She prompted me again and I said it was to celebrate Ostara, a Pagan holiday.
And that was that. I was out of the broom closet. My mother simply sent me a message saying okay and it was never really brought up. Somewhere along the line, my dad found out. I remember coming up from my bedroom wearing my giant pentacle, the one I used to locate fellow Pagans on campus, and him ask me with a bit of a laugh what that was for. I just shrugged and told him it was for protection, since that’s what it meant to me. When he asked me what from, my mother butted in and simply said “From overly inquisitive fathers.”
For awhile, it seemed like my parents thought Paganism was just a bit of a phase, something I did until I found something else. I was still rather young and it was easy to think that – I’d gone through a lot of them, after all. But as the months and then years went by without me budging on this identity, this path, they just accepted it as a part of who I was. It was important to me, so they just shrugged and moved on. A few years later, my parents returned from a trip overseas. They had visited Edinburgh on their trip and ducked into a shop that, normally, neither of them would have gone anywhere near (think Hot Topic before it became preppy). When they came home, my mother presented me with a large pentacle emblazoned with roses that I could hang or use for my altar. I cried that night because I knew then, at that moment, that my parents fully accepted me for who I was, even though I had never fully explained to them my beliefs (something I plan on rectifying soon).
My grandmother on my mother’s side found out before my parents did. I’d asked her to embroider a sign against the evil eye on a bag that I planned to use for a travel altar. She responded with links on various travel altars and shrines, what people typically use for them, etc. And, again, I cried. My grandmother on my father’s side, though, is less accepting. I recently learned that during the course of a large-scale fight she had with my parents, she accused my mother of being a demon and ruining me because I grew up to be Pagan. To this, I simply shake my head and sigh.
I’ve been very lucky with my family and friends accepting me for who I am. Having run my uni Pagan group for as long as I did, there was no option for being “in the broom closet,” something that I stress to anyone who comes to me for advice on starting or working with their own uni Pagan group. Not only will you be out, with very little chance of changing your mind – there are at least a dozen links and news articles regarding my uni Pagan group with my legal name in the article somewhere. And I’m perfectly okay with that. I’m perfectly okay with people knowing that I’m Pagan, though I don’t go out of my way to shout it to the world, giant pentacle aside.
But there are many people around the world who cannot be so open about their faith and who haven’t been as lucky as I have these last few years. I know that, at some point, my luck will run out and I will run into a belligerent individual who finds my faith threatening or disturbing in some fashion.
Which brings me to my inspiration for this blog post: International Pagan Coming Out Day (IPCOD).
For those who don’t know, IPCOD is the day where hundreds of individuals can “come out of the broom closet” in solidarity with one another. There’s something powerful about the idea of knowing that somewhere in the world, there are others coming out to friends and family, becoming more comfortable with themselves and in their own skin.
I learned of IPCOD over a year ago, possibly two. Each year, I spend the few days up to May 2 reminding people on Facebook, in person, on other websites about the coming day. It’s a very important day to me, as I want my friends and family who identify as Pagan or follow a Pagan, Polytheist, Reconstructionist, or Witch (PPRW) path to feel open and accepted, that at least one person stands with them if they chose to be open about that aspect of their lives. It’s difficult, it’s hard. You have to be very trusting of those around you in some cases, trust that you aren’t going to get burned by people you love and admire.
This year, though, was the first year I attended an IPCOD event. I got an email from Ange regarding a DC social dinner tonight and she asked if I was interested in attending. I agreed and we made plans to meet up and hang out at the dinner to see how things went. And I’m actually quite glad I went as it was a much more successful event than I was expecting. Most of the discussions revolved around social topics versus Paganism, which is probably why I ended up having a good time. I didn’t want to defend myself against my fellow Pagans if one of my “less palatable” beliefs and practices came into the discussion. There were a few tense moments for me, but overall it seemed successful. We were also a small group, about ten or so.
Next year, hopefully, I’ll be able to attend more. I’d like to help organize larger events in the future, but if a yearly dinner is all it ends up being, that’s more than alright with me.