Today is the official date for the International Pagan Coming Out Day. “IPCOD is a not-for-profit organization working to achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.” I think it’s vitally important that we support groups like this that work for acceptance within our community. I’m lucky enough to live somewhere where being openly Pagan is not usually an issue, but even here in New Orleans, things happen.
Last summer I was in the midst of cleaning my house. Wearing a pair of short shorts, rubber gloves and with my hair a crazy, frizzy mess, I hauled the trash out. As I was opening my trash can up, I heard someone walking down the street. A huge man decked out in all sorts of gang paraphernalia had just turned around the corner. At that point we lived in a pretty bad neighborhood. Just down the block, a gang regularly hung out and probably did a good bit of business. They left me alone, they knew that I belonged in the neighborhood. I left them alone in turn. We even, on occasion, gave each other a friendly, neighborly nod and acknowledgment. Apparently, some of this might have been because I am a witch.
This huge man, who I had never seen before and who I would not have wanted to have met in a dark ally late at night, took one look at me and crossed the street. Keeping me in his sight the whole time, he threw hex signs at me and hissed. All I could do at that point was smile and wave.
While this particular anecdote is simply amusing and nothing bad happened, I think it illustrates the type of fear that still persists in our overall society about Pagans and Witches. I made the decision a long time ago that I would be openly who I am. If a job doesn’t want me because I am openly Pagan, that is not a job for me. But other people aren’t so lucky.
So what are things that you can do to help those who aren’t out?
Just be yourself! Be open and approachable. Talk about your gatherings and holidays. Don’t hide being Pagan. Many of my coworkers have asked me a lot of questions about what I do and what Paganism is about. They know me, I’m not scary or intimidating. Be an advocate, as the IPCOD organization calls it.
You can also support your local Pagan community. Whether or not you have your own group or coven, there are usually groups that bring the entire local Pagan community together. In New Orleans, we have a meetup group. Don’t have a group like this? Start one!
Many cities also put together Pagan Pride Days through The Pagan Pride Project, which work to introduce the Pagan community to the larger community and promote acceptance and education. The New Orlean’s Pagan community is doing one this fall. Get involved and help out!
If you’re out, take a moment today to remind people that it is OK, that we can be openly Pagan and not be afraid. There is still a lot hate and intolerance in the world. It is only through standing up and saying “Yes, I am different and that’s OK” that we can start to change this and make it better. Some of us aren’t lucky enough to be safely out as a Pagan, use today as an opportunity to help change that. You never know when telling someone that you’re Pagan will make a difference.
*If you want to help us raise money for the Greater New Orleans Pagan Pride Day 2013, check out our Indiegogo campaign found here!