How to Come Out of the Broom Closet
Telling Family Members You’re Wiccan or Pagan
By Patti Wigington, About.com
At some point, you may have decided that you’re comfortable enough in your spiritual path that you’re ready to “come out of the broom closet.” Chances are it’s not a decision you’ve made lightly, because it’s a pretty big step. After all, once you’ve “come out”, you don’t get to take it back if people don’t like it. Certainly, we all want to be accepted by those we love and care about, but realistically we know there’s a chance they might be upset, angry, or concerned once they find out we’re Wiccan or Pagan.
First, you’ll need to decide what you hope to gain by coming out. Do you just want to shock the neighbors and grandparents into thinking you’re Spooky and Mysterious? On the other hand, maybe you feel like you’re being less than honest with people in your life by not revealing your true beliefs. Or perhaps you’re just tired of tiptoeing around and hiding who you are, and you’re ready to be open about your path. Regardless, make sure that the benefits outweigh the possible repercussions.
Coming out to Family
You’re the one who knows your family best, so you may be able to gauge how they’re going to react. Is there a chance you could cause a lot of family discord by coming out? Will your spouse threaten to divorce you? Could you get kicked out of the house? Will each family dinner become an opportunity for siblings to throw Chick Tracts at you and scream that you’re a sinner? Is it possible your kids might get picked on at school if word gets out that you’re Pagan? These are possible results of coming out of the broom closet. Consider them carefully, and weigh it against your reasons for coming out in the first place.
If you’ve decided that coming out is the right choice for you, the obvious place to start is at home, where there are people who love you and care about you. The reason for this is twofold — one, families tend to be more accepting than strangers, and two, how would you like it if mom and dad or your wife found out from someone other than you that you’re Wiccan?
First, let them know there’s something really important you need to discuss with them. Try to plan a time when there are no distractions — and do plan ahead, so no one feels like you’re trying to corner them or surprise them. Don’t bring up the subject when you have half a dozen Wiccan friends sitting on your porch — your family members will feel ambushed, and that’s not a good way to start the conversation.
Before you actually have the Big Conversation, think about what you’re going to say. As silly as this sounds, know what you believe. After all, if your family members ask you questions, you better be able to answer them if you want to be taken seriously. Make sure you’ve done your homework beforehand. They may want to know what you believe about God, reincarnation, spell work, or even if you hate Christianity now that you’re Wiccan. Have an honest answer ready.
When you do sit down to finally have the Talk, focus on remaining calm. Depending on how conservative or religious your family members are, there’s a possibility they might fly off the handle. They’re entitled to – after all, you’ve just told them something they weren’t expecting, and so the natural reaction to such a situation can be shock and anger for some people. No matter how much they yell, keep yourself from responding in kind. Keep your voice down — this will do two things. First, it will show them that you are mature, and secondly, it will force them to stop yelling in order to hear what you have to say.
Make sure you focus on what your belief system is, rather than what it isn’t. If you start the conversation with, “Now, it’s not devil worship…” then all anyone will hear is the “devil” part, and they’ll start worrying. You may even want to recommend a book for your parents to read so they can understand Wicca and Paganism a little better. One book aimed specifically for Christian parents of teens is When Someone You Love is Wiccan. It does include a few sweeping generalizations, but on the whole it provides a useful, positive Q&A format for people who are concerned about your new spiritual path.
The bottom line is that your family needs to see you’re still the same happy and well-adjusted person you were yesterday. Show by the way you behave and conduct yourself that you’re still a good person, despite the fact that you may have a different spiritual path than everyone else in the house.
Coming Out to Friends
This can almost be trickier than coming out to the family, because a family member can’t just drop you like a hot potato if they disagree with your choices. A friend can, although one could argue that someone who does so wasn’t really that good of a friend in the first place. However, if your friends have very different religious viewpoints from you, understand that it could happen.
Once you’ve come out to your family, you can come out to your friends gradually. You might want to start by wearing a piece of religious jewelry and seeing who notices it. When they ask what it is, you can explain, “This is a symbol of my faith, and it means [whatever].” For teens in particular, this is a much easier method than standing up on the lunchroom table and yelling, “Hey, everyone, listen up, I’m Wiccan now!!” I’d also recommend not taking big books on Paganism and magic to school with you — there’s a time and a place for reading about Wicca, but school isn’t it.
You may find that some of your friends are confused by this choice you’ve made. They may feel hurt that you haven’t talked to them about it before, or even a little betrayed that you couldn’t confide in them. The best thing you can do is reassure them that you’re telling them now, because you do value their friendship. If you have a friend who is particularly religious — or one you’ve met in a religious context, such as a church youth group — this could be even more awkward. Be sure you answer any questions they have, and make sure they understand that just because you’re no longer part of their religion doesn’t mean you no longer want to be friends. If you’re really lucky, eventually they’ll come around and be happy that you’re happy.
The great thing about really good friends is that they’ve probably already figured it out, and were just waiting for you to speak up. If they know you well enough, chances are good that you’re not really coming out to them, but simply confirming what they already suspected.
Coming Out at Work
While you are certainly protected against religious discrimination at work thanks to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the fact is that some people may experience some retaliation if they come out at work. It’s going to depend on where you work, what sort of people you work with, and whether or not there’s anyone who’d like to see you fired.
That having been said, the workplace is not really an appropriate place for discussions on religion. Your spirituality is private and personal, and while there’s nothing wrong with wearing a crystal on a chain around your neck, I’d probably draw the line at having a giant pentacle hanging over your desk. There’s very little benefit to actually coming out at work.
Understand that if you’ve come out to friends and family, there’s a possibility that someone at work will find out anyway. If that happens, and you are pressured into discussing your spirituality at work or if you are harassed in any way, talk to a supervisor. You may also want to look into retaining an attorney.
The Bottom Line
Bear in mind that there may be people in your life who are not going to be happy with your choice. You can’t change their minds; only they can do that. The best you can do is ask for tolerance, or at the very least, a lack of a hostile environment. Don’t waste your energy protesting against someone who’s convinced you’ve made a wrong decision. Instead, show them by your actions and deeds that your choice is the right one for you.
Some people may come up to you and say, “Hey, I hear you’re a Wiccan. What the heck is that, anyway?”
If that happens, you should have an answer. Tell them what you believe, something like, “A Wiccan is someone who honors both a god and a goddess, who reveres and honors the sacredness of nature, who accepts personal responsibilities for their own actions, and who tries to live a life of balance and harmony.” If you can give them a clear, concise answer (notice that there’s nothing in there about what Wicca isn’t) that’s usually good enough for most people. At the very least, it will give them something to think about.
Ultimately you’re the only one who can decide how to come out. You can wear a big shirt that says “Yes, I’m a Witch, Deal With It!” or you can gradually leave hints for people who are astute enough to spot them. You might leave books or statuary lying around where your parents can see them, or you may choose to wear Pagan jewelry where everyone can see it.
Remember that for some people, you may be the only Pagan or Wiccan they’ve ever met. If they have questions, answer them honestly and truthfully. Be the best person you can be, and perhaps you will be able to pave a path for the next Pagan in their life who is considering coming out of the broom closet.