International Pagan Coming Out Day (IPCOD), a not-for-profit organization, has named May 2nd as Pagan Coming Out Day. The group is organized by an eight person Executive Committee, of which two members are Minnesotans – Old Frisian and archaic Anglo-Saxon language specialist Nick Ritter and PNC’s Cara Schulz. Other committee members include licensed clinical psychologist and a faculty member of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Drake Spaeth, PsyD, The Wild Hunt’s Jason Pitzl-Waters, editor of SageWoman, Witches&Pagans, and Crone magazines Anne Newkirk Niven, writer and blogger Laura M. LaVoie, webmaster David Dashifen Kees, and CUUPS Board Member Emeritus Dave Burwasser.
As Chair of the Executive Committee for IPCOD, I am proud and excited to be part of this project, which I first proposed on the blog Pagan+politics back in June of last year. The goal of Pagan Coming Out Day is to achieve acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community. We’ll do this by being more visible and standing together. As more of us come out, the less discrimination we all face. May 2nd, is when individuals, deciding on their own terms, take a step that helps foster a society that truly does tolerate all religions. It’s also a day when our religious community comes together to support those Pagans coming out to a person or group and celebrates the more public emergence of their Pagan identity.
Let me clarify what I mean when I talk about coming out. It means you are open about your religion to your family, even if it’s uncomfortable, and it means being willing to request and expect equal treatment in the workplace. However – it is not an either/or proposition as some Pagans are out to some people in their lives, but not others. The phrase ‘coming out’ can have two meanings – an entrance into a new world of hope and communal solidarity or an exit from the oppression of the closet.
When we’ve talked to people about this project, the number one question asked is why should Pagans come out? Should is not a word we use when talking about the decision to come out or not. Coming out to someone is a decision only they can make and it’s a decision best made when they’re mentally and emotionally ready to do so. Pagan Coming Out Day is not about shaming other Pagans and polytheists into coming out when they’re not ready.
Rather than talk about ‘should’ – let’s look at the benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, to coming out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety in your life caused by living a double life and encouraging a climate of greater tolerance and acceptance of Paganism as more people realize they know a friend and loved ones who are Pagan. But there are risks, too, and each person will have to access the risks and benefits unique to their own situation.
Our website offers resources (like the IPCOD’s Guide to Coming Out authored by Drake Spaeth, PsyD) and encouragement for Pagans who choose to come out. We give Pagans a place to make their voice heard as they recount their personal stories of coming out or as they relate the experience that caused them to decide that they were not able or willing to come out yet. Through these stories, by more Pagans coming out and being visible, and by showing Pagan allies how they can stand with us, we hope to reduce stigma by putting a human face on Paganism.
If you would like to help, there are several ways you can do so.
- You can friend us on facebook – http://www.facebook.com/PaganComingOutDay – and post this on your status “I wanted to share a fan page that’s really worth liking! Many Pagans, Witches, Druids, and other magical or nature-based spiritual paths face challenges being public, perhaps due to family or where they live. It takes courage to be true to yourself and it also takes the help of community! The people at Pagan Coming Out Day are a great place to find that community!” with a link to our facebook page.
- You could write your personal coming out story, like the ones on our site, and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or tell us why you feel you cannot yet come out. We will then post it on our website. Sharing your story provides a human face to the joys and struggles that modern Pagans experience.
- You can come to Minnesota’s Coming Out Ball at the Sacred Paths Center on May 2nd. Come celebrate if you’ve been out to everyone in your life for forever or if you are out to just a few close friends. Cocktails, food and entertainment will be on hand.
- Host a ritual to send strength to those Pagans choosing to come out. Or say a prayer for greater acceptance and equity.
Our website lists many more ways you can help out and is updated with new information, and new ‘in’ and ‘out’ stories, each week.
What ever way you choose to become involved is appreciated and needed. One voice cannot carry very far. Thousands of voices can sing a song with the power to change the world.