Out of the Closet
Posted: On WitchVox April 5th. 1999
Closets... Just about everyone has one or two. As kids, we knew that they were a great place to hide. We were invisible. No one could see us in the dark perching on a pile of Dad's old shoes. We would wait...hearts pounding. We would wait... for someone to fling open the door. The anticipation was almost more than we could stand.
There comes a time when most of us stop playing this game...
And for Ellen DeGeneres, that time has come.....
The much anticipated "outing" episode of "Ellen" aired last night. Reactions from different segments of society will probably be the focus of controversy and debate for the next few weeks. Opinions on whether homosexuality has a place on television and what effect that this open expression may have on our collective sexual consciousness will become a important issue in media circles. This topic engages the emotions and fuels the latent fears of a large segment of the world. What is so threatening about a person who chooses to be honest about who she is and what she feels? What is considered so dangerous here that three major sponsors of the "Ellen" show chose to pull their financial support from the program? What is going on and what does this have to do with Witchcraft?
There are two things that more than any other define who we are as a person- our sexual orientation and our spiritual beliefs. How we express our needs for love, companionship and acceptance are very much entwined with who we want to spend our time with and with who we may share our innermost thoughts, desires, hopes and dreams. Probably nowhere else-than when we are in our bedrooms or in our temples- are we likely to be more honest or more vulnerable. The bedroom is the place where we strip aside all pretense with our loved ones and the temple is where we bare our souls to the divine. To be able to engage in an honest and open relationship with the one the you love IS a divine experience for most of us. We are taken beyond our physical selves into true union with another-we become one with our beloved.
Our religious experiences are much the same. When we contact our divinities, we are not simply talking to thin air. We are connecting with a real presence, a real force that touches us and transforms us in ways impossible to express in words alone. Mystics throughout the centuries have tried to tell us about the experience. Their conclusions have been pretty much universal on the subject-it must be experienced personally. Yet still they struggled to tell those closest to them about what they encountered. Why? Because we all have a need to share that part of ourselves that has the most meaning with those whom we love the most.
And that need to share with others is what brings this discussion around to Witchcraft and the ever present "broom closet" topic.
Ellen DeGeneres has stated in many interviews that one of the reasons that she decided to go public about her sexual preferences was the fact that she "was tired of living a lie." She was tired of carefully censoring her words, tired of pretending to take an interest in things where she had none and tired of not being able to have a loved one with her at the important events of her life. Sound familiar?
How many times have we, as Witches, Wiccans and Pagans, not taken part in conversations about religious beliefs lest we be asked about ours? How many times have we tucked away our altars when Grandma was due to pay us a visit? How many times have we wanted to attend some pagan event in our area, yet held back because someone from the neighborhood or workplace may see us there? And how many times have we had a truly uplifting experience with the Gods and Goddesses and felt unable to share this with the very people that we are closest to?
What are we afraid of? We are afraid-and rightfully so- because we are different. And different, whether in sexual lifestyle or religious belief, is not easily tolerated in our society. Different is potentially dangerous to the status quo, threatening to the "established" and disorienting to those who like things unchallenged. Different necessitates change, a shake up, a restructuring of family interactions, of personal assumptions on what is "right" or "wrong" and a realization that things will no longer be as they were before. Being openly different means that we become "visible".
The Gay community was for a very long time a hidden society. There have always been homosexuals...they just were not "visible" until very recently. (When a group is isolated from the mainstream, it is also isolated from having a voice in the open forum.) Being invisible can be safer for a minority group, but it is also frustrating and restrictive. And the personal price of "invisibility" is very high indeed.
Ellen is taking a huge chance here. She is putting her personal reputation and her future career on the line. She has just purchased her "dream house" and risks losing it if her financial situation is affected by this choice to "come out". Some of her family and friends have expressed a negative reaction to her decision and that has been a very painful experience for her. Jerry Falwell has nicknamed her "Ellen DeGenerate". She has been quite humble in stating that she does not see herself as a role model for the gay community and knows that this statement may well earn her criticism from that quarter as well. So why is she doing this?
Ellen DeGeneres found the personal price of maintaining "invisibility" too high. Being deceptive with others about her true feelings and beliefs was something that she found to be at odds with her own honest and giving nature. Living with the fear of being found out created a conflict with her artistic expression and perhaps, more importantly, she realized that she could not express the love that she had found with other people. The inability to share those transcendent moments- those moments that mystics, lovers and spiritual seekers throughout the ages have been inspired to write about, paint about, preach about and sing about-became not only a denial of her true self, it seemed to trivialize all that she held dear within her heart.
This was choice that Ellen could only make for Ellen. That is why she is hesitant to "speak" for anyone else. This was a personal choice, a difficult choice and undoubtedly, a life changing choice. It took courage to dare to become visible.
But, for all this controversy, Ellen DeGeneres is looking very happy these days. She states she felt as "though she had left her body" when she finally came out and stated, "Yes, I AM gay!".
Sounds like a mystical experience to us.....We wish her every happiness and lots of love...
Walk in light and love,
April 30th, 1997 c.e.