|Coming Out of the Broom Closet
One of the biggest challenges to any Wiccan is figuring out how to "Come out of the Broom Closet." Telling your friends and family that you're a "Witch" can be incredibly intimidating. How will they react? What will they think? Will they judge you for it? Is there even a remote chance that someone's going to try and tie you to a stake, surround it with kindling, and light you on fire? In other words, there is a constant fear that they won't accept it.
Even if that fear is only in the Witch's head.
The fear of persecution is a strong one, and it's not one that someone should be quick to dismiss depending on where you live. Most people reading this live in a country where the theological system most well known is Christianity. Like any Religion (including Wicca) it has its crazy Zealots... and, as to be expected, when you're a member of a different faith than a Zealot, you should expect trouble. Of course, just because you think someone's going to react like a crazy person doesn't mean that they will. Sometimes people will surprise you with their reaction.
Truthfully though, it comes down to understanding your audience.
Coming out to different types of people is a very different experience though. A friend reacting poorly isn't as much a problem as say a teenager's parent or an employer not taking it well. There is a huge difference between those you see as peers, and those you don't see as peers.
Telling your mom or dad is difficult, but it really depends on your parents. If a young Witch is under eighteen, it can be even more of a problem. My advice to a young witch is to try discussing Wicca (without mentioning their own involvement) and find out how they react to it. If they are receptive, then I honestly say -- bite the bullet. But let's face it, not everyone lives in an open minded household. And while I would never encourage a young person lie to their parents, if one feels they would be in genuine danger, a sin of omission until after your 18th birthday is not the worst thing in the world.
I have to admit that in my own experience I actually had it easy when I told my immediate family. My parents are fairly agnostic, and were raised in relatively open minded ways themselves. As mentioned in my earlier essay, that while my older sister had little to do with my choice in spiritual path, she had already told my parents she was a Wiccan. This meant that I, frankly, got to skip the most awkward part of coming out to my immediate family: Telling them what the heck a Wiccan is.
That, to me, is always the hard part.
In my experience, every single time I ever tell anyone what my religion is, it ends up turning into a theology lesson. While at this point I have no fear regarding coming out of the broom closet as I'm fairly comfortable with myself, I honestly sometimes avoid it just because I don't want to spend twenty minutes running a Q&A on modern Witchcraft.
I took a basic Religions class when I was attending UWEC, and in one of the first lectures we were asked to break off into small groups and talk about our own religious upbringings. In that group, being the only non-Christian, it turned completely into "Let's talk about that weird religion Trae practices!" It was, in essence, a grueling experience.
Not telling people often seems like a better idea. The problem though with putting off telling people what my religion is the impending awkwardness when they eventually find out. I see my extended family only once or twice a year, and while I became a Wiccan over a decade ago, I still haven't come out to most of them. At first it was nervousness, but now it's just been so long that it's hard to tell them. About a year ago, some of my family on my mother's side found out, and I ended up feeling fairly strange about it.
The whole thing would have probably been easier if I had told them a long time ago.
With friends its significantly less difficult for most people. A friend is a peer, and there's less pressure if they react poorly. It's a difficult thing for some, but life becomes so much easier afterwards. In my personal life I've found that, in reality, most of your friends aren't really going to care what your religion is. The few who do are likely projecting their own insecurities.
Family and friends aren't your only concern with coming out of the broom closet though. We live and work around quite a few different people on a day to day basis, and employers present a wholly different problem.
My advice, honestly, is to not mention it. A person's religion, with rare exception, is not their employer's business. While in most cases it's perfectly safe to mention what you are, I would always recommend being careful. Most of my employers have ended up finding out about my faith, and it's been a surprisingly easy experience. I however live in Wisconsin, which is considerably more open minded than, say, the Bible Belt. In truth, in some states you can be fired without cause, and one bigoted boss is all it takes to ruin your life. So, again, I say "Just don't mention it unless you need to."
You may be saying to yourself, "How can you really be out of the Broom Closet if you haven't told everyone?" Coming out of the Broom Closet isn't about telling random strangers and screaming "I'M A WITCH!" at the top of your lungs. Frankly, the few people who do that often are just making life more difficult for themselves and other Witches -- and are far more likely to be seeking attention far more than any form of actual, genuine spiritual enlightenment or expanding their horizons. It isn't about "showing off." In fact, it's never about showing off. Instead, it's about being honest with who you are and not hiding.
There is a significant difference between not hiding who you are and buying a neon lit, five-hundred foot billboard. Never lie about who and what you are, it's the only way to stay sane.