International Pagan Coming Out Day (IPCOD) is an important event for me and not just because I help out however I can as a member of the executive committee for the event. It’s important as a call to action for Pagans to stand with others in our community who have come out but, just as importantly, to recognize that not all of us can do so safely.
I was lucky to have parents that, for a variety of reasons, weren’t concerned–or didn’t share their concerns–when I moved on from the religion of my childhood. In fact, it was my mother who purchased a copy of Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner at my request way back during my teenage years. But, I recognize that my situation is not that others find themselves living.
We’ve seen the stories of a Witch and author if Florida who’s been on the receiving end of violence thought to be motivated by religious intolerance. Step outside of America and you can fairly easily find stories from other countries where people are still killed based simply on accusations of witchcraft. I think it’s clear that US Pagans hopefully aren’t facing the threat of death for coming out of the broom closet, but that doesn’t mean that things are without there dangers here.
Throughout the day today, on the IPCOD Facebook page, we’ve seen testimonials from people who’ve come out. At least one of those people indicated that she actually came out to members of her family today! Unfortunately, it sounded like things went a little rough for her, and she wasn’t the only one. We’ve heard stories of people who were disowned, those who lost friendships, those who were accused of Satanism, who faced attempts to “save” them, and who were said to be damned to hell.
I look back at my time growing up in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania and it was an accepting place. Rarely was I on the receiving end of antisemitism while identifying as Jewish and I can think of only one instance when my music teacher, of all things, questioned me regarding my interest in Satanism. But even in this case, I explained myself and he dropped it. Similarly, no one in Illinois really seemed worried for me or my soul and now in Massachusetts I live about an hour and half from Salem so people around here are at least familiar with Witches and with Paganism at least anecdotally.
But the ease with which I came out and the lack of issues relating to my religious choices doesn’t somehow invalidate the need for IPCOD nor does it make it any less necessary. Until we can all feel comfortable sharing ourselves truly with the world (when moved to do so) without fear of professional or private consequences, it’s important for us to support those who are publicly Pagan, to do our best to support the works of other Pagans when we find them congruous to our own goals, and to understand and support those who, for any reason, choose not to share their religious identify with others.
[Update: man, I feel like I phoned this one in. There have been a number of excellent essays on IPCOD from others in the community. Many have been gathered on the IPCOD Facebook page, but I invite you to read Peter Dybing’s challenging words on coming out. Truly remarkable!]