Friday, November 26, 2010

It's like coming out all over again. Except, y'know, less fun.

A couple of weeks ago, a buddy of mine inadvertently stumbled across my blog. I'd never told him I was Pagan, mainly because it just never came up in conversation. However, it also never occurred to me that he'd have a problem with it.

He had a problem with it. A huge problem, in fact, so much so that we're no longer speaking. Or, more specifically, he's no longer speaking to me.

Part of the issue is that he strongly disagrees with my beliefs and practices, which, you know what? Fine. Beats of different drums and all that. But he's primarily angry with me because I didn't tell him about my beliefs and practices. I certainly didn't make an effort to hide them, but because we didn't meet while I had a "Hello! My name is WITCH" sticker slapped across my forehead, he feels that I was dishonest with him.

Of course, in retrospect, if I had told him, he would've flipped out and we wouldn't have become friends. But then again, we're not friends now that he does know, so I give the fuck up.

I shared this experience with EpiscoPete, who replied that since Witchcraft is a big part of who I am, I need to be fairly upfront about it. However, I also told Trothwy, who avered that it's nobody's business but my own, and that I should really only be forced to mention it if I find myself engaged to a man who assumes we're hiring a Christian minister for the commitment ceremony.

Strifemongers, which is the most advantageous course of action? Reveal my religion on a strictly need-to-know basis, or bedeck myself in pentacles and hope for the best?

I sure as hell can't decide. So you guys do it for me.


Pitch313 said...

I have found that, because I practice Neo-Pagan Craft, most of my friends and associates are also Neo-Pagans of some stripe. These days, I probably have to have this in common with other folks in order to be friends with them and they with me.

At the same time, if the basis of friendship does not revolve around spirituality and commitments to particular forms of spirituality, it's difficult for me to figure out how not laying spiritual commitments on the table on day one undercuts a friendship anchored in other interests and qualities.

So, no help, I guess. Just keep on truckin'!

miakoda said...

I tend to hang out with non-theists, mostly, and I work at a very, very Catholic university. I don't hide who I am, and anyone who's actually paying attention would probably figure it out, but it's not like I go around wearing a pentacle, either. (Spirals, yes, but those are more significant to me anyway.) I will correct someone if they make an assumption about my beliefs, but I prefer not to discuss religion and politics with any but a small handful of people.

This is something I have to play by ear depending on the person and situation. I suspect you'll end up at a similar conclusion, because let's face it -- some people are reasonable and vaguely grown up about these things, and some people are closet douchebags. There is no perfect solution that covers all bases.

Brother Christopher said...

I think it depends upon the relationship. Casual friendships, casual business relationships, and things that just aren't that important or deep, I don't think those people need to know, especially if you feel they going to freak out on you, and call you dark sided...

If it is a person with you who are or have a deep personal connection to, like a potential lover and life partner, or a friendship that is very engaging and active (maybe you talk every day, and make an effort to see each other a few times a week, and share intimate details of your life etc...) then I think it is something that you ought to share, especially early on. Some people just can't or wont handle it, and it's best to get it over and done with, then to let the chaos erupt later in time. I am not saying that you can't have non-pagan friends, but they need to be people who accept what you believe and respect that, as much as you accept what they believe and respect them back. If they can't do that, then why do you want to be friend with them?

Ali said...

My policy is to gently and politely correct inaccurate assumptions about what my religion is, and then to patiently answer whatever questions arise from those corrections (which sometimes veer way off into territory having only a tangential connection to my actual Pagan practices - f'ex, I once had a coworker end up asking me about whether or not Buddhists believe in Jesus).

My Paganism is a big enough part of who I am that most people who know me aren't very surprised to find out I'm a tree-hugger in spirit and practice as well as in theory. ;) Relatives and close friends, after the initial awkwardness, tend to take an attitude of pride in knowing and supporting me as their token Pagan Friend, like somehow it makes them just a little bit cooler. But I'm lucky that way. Though I have plenty of non-Pagan friends, I have very few friends who are fundamentalist enough to care that I'm not Christian.

Katie said...

Personally, I don't talk about it much. I mean, I do what I do. I wear a little tiny hammer. If people don't pay attention, that isn't my fault or my problem. To me, it's a really personal matter. I won't lie if asked, but since when is it my responsibility to go around telling everyone my business? No one expects a Lutheran to go around and let everyone know. I personally don't feel the need to share with everyone I know. Honestly, fuck this guy.

FilmnoirKate said...

I tend not to bring my beliefs up. And, honestly, I spend most of my time with people I work with so there is never a reason to bring my beliefs up. Yes, it may be a big part of who you are. Yes, it is important to you. But, I can't imagine that its a huge part of every single relationship you have so, if it doesn't come up, I don't think you need to force it up.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you can be as open or closeted as you are comfortable with, and anyone who says you should be some way or another really needs to go fuck themselves. If you can get your ex-friend to pull his head out long enough to listen, simply explain all the reasons why you might not want to announce your Paganism publicly. Exhibit #1: his reaction. If he's still pissy, then you can throw it in his face and accuse him of deliberately hiding his bigotry from you. He didn't announce it up front; why did he feel the need to hide it from you?
If he still doesn't get it, I'd bet you're better off not having assholes like that in your circle of friends.

Praxidike said...

I don't think you are ever obligated to tell anyone about things that are personal or sacred to you, even if they think you are. Non-pagans, and even non-BTW pagans, often view oathbound traditions as being sneaky rather than private. I understand you're BTW. Since you can't tell non-initiates about what you do, why would you even go there? It's not your fault, or responsibilty, what other people think. I am sorry you've lost a friend, but he doesn't sound worth keeping to me.

Cat said...

(loooong comment for a complex issue)

I think it’s important to note that EpiscoPete and Trothwy are coming from two completely different places on this. EpiscoPete, for all that he’s a totally cool dude, has got the inherent privilege of being in the overwhelming religious majority in this country. He seems to be coming from the commonly held “everyone is Christian by default and if you’re not you should tell me so I can figure out what box you go in” mindset. Which is, to put it bluntly, a nice little game where the powerful get to dictate the rules to the disenfranchised. You see the same thing when a person of unclear racial heritage or sexual orientation or anything that deviates from the perceived norm starts interacting with a group that’s largely the definition of mainstream.

And for all that it’s a common mindset, no, it’s not cool, because yeah, it really is nobody’s damn business. And I know for a fact that Miss Manners and Miss Conduct both agree with me.

Trothwy is, like most of the rest of us here, actually a member of a teeny tiny religious minority in this country so she’s got a slightly different lived experience. She understands both the dangers that come along with proclaiming oneself as different to all and sundry, especially as religious discrimination is still alive and well here in the good ol’ US of A (as your friend so helpfully proved). Further, she’s got the experience of not having a default “everyone else is just like me” setting with this issue, so she’s actually had the opportunity to come to realize that there are other religions out there besides her own, and that in day-to-day interactions, faith matters about as much as shoe size.

In summary? Keep living your life the way you have been because that seems to have been working for you. Know where the Christians you’re going to meet are coming from on this, but since you yourself are aware of a broader religious life than they are, screw ‘em and refer ‘em to the Misses I mentioned above. Also, your “friend” who got pissed when he “found out” is a bigot who is upset that you didn’t stay in your nice, neat box and that you were furthermore able to “pass” as what he considered normal. That’s not a friend, that’s a ticking time bomb and you don’t need that nonsense.

Word verification: "bogooff", what I say to people who will only socialize with me if I match a rarefied list of criteria.

Deborah said...

It's a matter of figuring out the context. Since you likened it to coming out, that is actually a good way of measuring.

Not everyone who is out actually says, "Hi, I'm Evn and I'm a big ol' queer. Nice to meet you." You can if you want to, but failure to do so doesn't mean you're not out.

BUT...are you avoiding pronouns? Are you failing to chime in when others are sharing disastrous yet funny blind date stories? Do you avoid saying with whom you took that last vacation? If you answer yes to any of these, you're not out.

So, measure similarly with the Craft. You're not obligated to say "Hi, I'm Evn and I'm a scary Pagan Witch Booga Booga!" The fact that your "friend" thinks you were so obligated is him speaking from his majority privilege -- it's everyone else's job to cater to his discomfort. Or, y'know, not.

But, if you skipped certain funny stories because they involved mentioning it happened during a Pagan event, if you avoid topics or reframe, then you're not being entirely out of the broom closet, and you can choose to examine that more closely.

Veles said...

We really should make those "I Worship VooDoo" shirts.

I vote for black with lots of sparkly glitter and skulls.

zemkat said...

You're pagan?

Thalia said...

I think it really depends on where in the country you are. Up here in New England, I openly wear my pentacle, and if anyone has a problem with it they can fuck off. And I will tell them that, up to and including bosses (though not quite in that language). But up here it's mostly liberal, politically, and—and this is very important—I would have the backing of the law if someone gave me too much crap about it in, say, a work situation.

In another part of the country, I don't know. Because there are definitely safety issues around it.

As for EpiscoPete's attitude that it is on you to be up front about it, I call bullshit. Yeah, he's totally working from a position of privilege and the assumption that well of course everyone is Christian, and if—OMG!—you're not, then it's up to you to tell people, cause, you know, you must be a freak or something. No, it's up to them not to make asinine assumptions in the first place.

Pallas Renatus said...

Everyone's covered just about everything I wanted to say, but I wanted to leave this little tidbit:

Even if it was your responsibility to be more in-your-face about your beliefs, his reaction was beyond overboard. If someone had some huge moral problem with you being gay, I'd expect them to say so, stop talking to you, and get on with their lives, not blow up and make a huge scene. The same goes for being pagan, or anything else, really. If they want to be a bigot, they could at least be classy about it.

Anonymous said...

You can't be the custodian of someone else's moral compass. Each of us has to carry our own.

If there's something that would violently turn John Doe from making a first (or second, or third) date with a Prospective Honey, then John Doe needs to take responsibility for applying his own moral compass. He needs to ask up front about his personal deal-breakers, rather than relying on someone else to guess what they might be.

Dating is all about getting to know potential partners, for Pete's sake. You don't start out at the finish line; it's a process.

Although I suspect Evn's now considering asking his future dates whether they are crazy or not before embarking upon any adventures. ((Laughing))

Jake said...

Hey Evn! Just about everything that needs to be said has been said, but I thought you'd appreciate a comment from a Strifemonger who is a fairly devote Christian.

First you are entitled to be as private or open as you want to be, regardless of the topic. The clear thing to remember here is it is HE who has the problem and not you. It sucks that his problem affects you negatively (through the "loss" of friendship) but that's life chief.

Second, it sounds like he's a pissy little drama queen and chances are he'll probably come around eventually once the "righteous indignation" cools out of his blood.

Third, if he was truly secure in his beliefs, whatever they are, he wouldn't feel so threatened by you believing something different.

Finally, if he is truly following the teachings of Christ, AND believes that what you are doing is wrong (and therefore harmful to you or others) he is charged with trying to HELP you not CONDEMN you.

Unfortunately, having said that last part, I am compelled -as a Christian- to at least try to lead you into the light. So please Evn, please reconsider the beard. You've had your whiskery fun, but it may be time to pick up the razor.

Evn said...


Siobhan said...

I think you should treat it the way you treat your homosexuality. I'd imagine, being in Texas, that you come across people with whom it is not entirely practical... or even safe... to immediately out yourself to. Consider your paganism the same way. As was said earlier, casual acquaintances or business friends don't NEED to know, but if you find the relationship moving toward a more complex friendship, then let it drop.

this way you protect yourself (somewhat) from discrimination and weed out those who can't handle it before the friendship becomes truly deep.

Neon Fox said...

Consider this scenario, slightly altered:

"Why didn't you ever tell me you were Catholic? All that saint-worshipping is just idolatry, and don't even get me started on the Virgin! You should have told me. I thought you just liked that crucifix!"

He's being a big ol' drama-llama, and he's totally unjustified. You're better off without him.

Chase said...

Oh my god. Dear lord Jesus. You're one of those dark-sided Devil worshippers?

Awesome. ;)

Just thought I'd chime in.
We've talked about this some, but my take on this is that if it's someone I'm in a closer-than-acquaintance relationship, I'll tell them -early- instead of letting it blow up in my face. I am very upfront about it with potential partners as well, since if it's a dealbreaker I'd rather not form an attachment that's just going to break my heart.

Also Publilius Syrus said it best. "A friendship which can end never really began." You're either friends or you're not. You're not responsible for his reaction, only for yours.

EpiscoPete said...

Just saw this, Evn. Just wanted to clarify my thoughts a little. I don't at all think you have to (or should if you're not comfortable with it, which I know you're not) completely come out a Pagan, but I do think you were in a situation relationship-wise that it should have come up. There's not going to be a one size fits all answer. You're going to have to make the determination on a case-by-case basis. In this case, as I have lovingly told you, you should have been more up front and corrected his incorrect assumptions...

Love ya bubs. :)

knottybynature said...

If they can't accept you for you, then they don't matter.

Because love, whether it's friendship or something more, is accepting a person, both the good and bad aspects of them. And good and bad are both relative.

Besides. We think you're amazing, and really, that's all that matters, isn't it?

zemkat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.