Closets Within Closets
Posted: On WitchVox June 4th. 2006
It’s no secret that the Wiccan and Pagan community is, for the most part, a tolerant and accepting environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Hell, in part, it’s that very factor that attracted me the most to Wicca. The moment I read “Being gay is okay” in my first book about Wicca, I was set. I knew I wanted to know more, and it’s led me, almost a year and a half later, deeply into a community that I absolutely love and a faith that I feel passionate about.
So how do I tell my family about this?
Obviously, the broom closet is an issue that every Pagan, at one point or another, has to face. We can choose to be discreet and wear our pentacles under our shirts; one can choose to dress and act in ways that say in big neon colored signs that “I’m a Witch!”; we can choose to play the hokey-pokey, letting some people know and others not – you get the gist of it.
But for the GLBTQ Pagan, this can be a bit trickier. Let’s face it, being queer and Pagan in this day and age is looked upon with some oddity. We’re essentially rallying against the norm twice over. And depending on your environment, it’s not always easy to live both of your lives openly.
I feel this issue all too well. I come from a very devout Catholic environment. While in my childhood I felt some sort of divine connection, a spiritual comfort that I couldn’t describe (many thanks to my Maw-Maw for that), as I got older, I obviously felt a wedge form between me and the church. My earliest desires for men came when I was ten – I found postcards with scantily-clad guys during a trip to Mexico, but my mom made me get the ones with girls. By the time I was fourteen, I flirted with calling myself bisexual, but my parents caught my stash of guy porn and promptly put me into therapy, where I learned that my feelings were inherently sinful and I should change. That sent me into a three-year struggle, between enjoying my sexuality and enduring guilt.
It was at this point that I began experimenting with other religious experiences. I had glanced at Wicca when I was fourteen, but dropped it shortly after being put into therapy. I performed little rituals (all with a Catholic flair): small sacrifices of plants and food, binges of sexual abstinence and fervent prayer, all with the purpose of purging my desires for men from my system. I started to read Tarot cards, and at one point I found myself practicing shamanism because I found it was a system of practices that could be incorporated into any religion. Still, nothing changed – I still liked guys, and most of my experimenting died shortly after realizing it didn’t work. Essentially, this was a period of trial and error, where every trial would inevitably fail.
When I was seventeen, beginning my senior year, I finally pulled myself aside and seriously questioned whether or not it was okay to be gay. Despite what I had been told, I’d find myself nervously glancing through GLBTQ books in the stores, reading stories that eerily resonated with my own. In October of that year, I came out to myself. It would be a month later before I started coming out to my friends, sister, and even my mother. As of this point, my dad and my extended family are unaware that I’m gay, but everybody else who knows, for all points and purposes, accepts it.
Now, a month after coming out, I began to seriously question my Catholic faith. I looked back with this new sense of empowerment, and what I saw wasn’t pretty. It was a large period of suffering, a time when, in addition to being mistreated by my peers and some of my extended family, a faith that once gave me comfort was giving me great pain. And when I was at my lowest point, the Church’s doctrine stabbed me in the back, kicking me while I was down. I realized, sitting in the middle of one mass, that I did not want to be a Catholic, and I may not want to be Christian either.
The following January, I started to look back at Wicca. I had only learned of the spell stuff when I was fourteen, but I felt a calling, a “psychic pull” if you will, that got me to buy The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft. It affirmed my sexuality, and said that it was okay to be myself. And the rest is history.
But now it’s the broom closet that I’m facing. Most, if not all, of my friends know I’m both gay and Wiccan. My sister also knows, having stumbled into my room during my Summer Solstice celebration. But my parents and extended family don’t know. Most of you are probably thinking, “Well, it’s not their business.” But here’s the thing: these two secrets aside, I’ve always been honest with my family. And at family gatherings I have to hide not one, but two major parts of my life. I can’t set up an altar at home (and sometimes even at college), read my books in plain site, or listen to the Lance and Graal Pagan Podcast without my iPod.
On top of all that, I suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (ugh, surely you can guess) which affects me when I’m under a great deal of stress. And not being open with my family is extremely stressful. So this is also affecting me on a physical level. Before I lose my own sanity, I’ve been seeing a therapist for the past semester to help me deal with my anxiety at not being myself, among other things.
But it just makes me wonder, how do I, if ever, come out to my parents with being both gay and Wiccan. There are sections in dozens of Wiccan and Pagan books about how to come out openly with your religion, but so far I’ve only read one book that touches on the duo-fold problem of coming out as a queer Wiccan. In my case, my mother was truly upset at my being gay, and her only wish was that I stay Christian. Not being one to make waves, I don’t really want to make her go through this again. My father, on the other hand, is staunchly conservative Catholic, so for the time being I’ve opted against telling him anything.
What’s my rambling here all for? Ultimately, I suppose, it would be a plea – a request that there be an additional section in most Pagan resources that deal with coming out as a GLBTQ Pagan. I’m perfectly aware that it would be somewhat suicidal to tell someone you’re both of these at the same times, but just a breakdown of how to handle issues and trials that would arise from coming out as this. And I’m not just talking about books solely devoted to gay Pagans (such as Gay Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak and The Path of the Green Man by Michael Thomas Ford), but in all resources. Times are changing, for the most part, for GLBTQ people. But gay Pagans still have another hill they have to surmount, and one part of their personality, in some situations, can tarnish the other in the eyes of the uneducated. I want to be an example of a good Wiccan and a gay man. I just need a little direction, a way to open up both of my closets safely. I love who I am, just not the added pressure of having extra secrets.