I Am Not A Broom (part 1)
First of all, non-Pagans reading this may be asking themselves about the title of the post. After all, it is fairly safe to assume that I am not an inanimate object. (At least, most of the time that’s a safe assumption.) The title refers to Pagans who are not (or cannot be) open about their beliefs – they are said to be in the broom closet.
Why can’t you be open about your beliefs?
Lots of reasons, but the main one is fear. Fear of harassment, job loss, eviction, loss of friends and family, persecution… When I first started on my path, many, many years ago, Wicca was not nearly as well-known as it is now, and a lot of people (maybe even most) were afraid of serious repercussions if anyone found out that they practiced “witchcraft” or followed a Pagan path. People lost jobs, homes, even custody of their children in divorce cases simply because of their religion.
Things have changed (are changing) but those fears were (and still are) valid – in some places more than others. Coming out is still a risk, and I don’t fault those who stay in the closet – it’s a scary world out here at times, and the laws don’t necessarily always protect your rights.
So, why come out of the broom closet at all?
For me, it began to feel false to hide my beliefs, to hide who and what I was. I felt as if I was denying my religion, denying the legitimacy of it. Or that I was ashamed of what I was. Staying in the broom closet sends a message – to our own subconscious as well as to other people – that we are doing something wrong, or shameful, something that has to be hidden away.
Those things did not sit well with me, so I began sneaking out of the broom closet on occasion, starting with wearing a pentacle. And despite living in a small town in Pennsylvania nothing drastic happened.
Yes, there is a risk in being open. But there is also a risk in staying in the broom closet: inside the broom closet nothing ever changes. Those changes I mentioned above? They didn’t come from people in closets. Change only happens if people make it happen.
People who choose to stay in the broom closet can still make a difference. They can still work semi-anonymously, behind the scenes: writing letters, donating money, spreading the word of injustices…
But people are afraid of what they don’t understand, and by hiding in the broom closet others don’t get to know that Pagans are people just like them. They think that they don’t know anyone like that, and that Pagans are strange and different and evil and spooky and… you know the stereotype.
Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but so far, the worst I’ve had to deal with is some mockery. I welcome sincere questions but I do have a co-worker who crossed the line a few times. I finally said “I don’t mock your religion. Please extend the same courtesy to mine.” He looked surprised – maybe even shocked – but I haven’t had any problems with him since then.
So, I’m out of the broom closet, but I don’t make a big deal of it: being out of the broom closet doesn’t mean being obnoxious and in –your-face. I wear my pentacle openly and I’m always willing to answer questions, but I don’t go around saying, “Hi! I’m a Pagan!” After all, it’s just who and what I am. Besides, other people don’t go around saying, “Hi! I’m a Christian!” (Or Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.)
For the most part I’ve had a “don’t ask don’t tell” kind of attitude. (If you don’t ask I won’t tell.) Some of that has probably been pretty much blown by my posting this blog to my FaceBook feed, not to mention all the posts from Pagan groups that I’ve liked or shared. People who didn’t ask and who I didn’t tell are now probably aware that I follow a different religion.
And you know what? I’m okay with that. If other people can post openly about their beliefs, so can I. And if they are offended by what I post, then they need to look within themselves and ask why they feel threatened by my beliefs.
And if they want to block me or unfriend me because of my religion, that’s fine too. I don’t need their approval and I am not going back into the broom closet.
I am a person.
I am a Pagan.
I am a Witch.
But I am not a broom.