Opinion: Outing oneself is not an act of privilege — it is an act of defiance
Below is an excerpt from a very thought provoking post by Ruadhan McElroy. Please read the entire post here.
First off, I want to make it quite clear that I don’t ultimately fault people who aren’t “out” about their paganness (or queerness, but that’s not what I’m discussing here) because of situations where one may be at a very great risk of losing their job, their home, custody of their children, or a healthy relationship with family members they still want to maintain a healthy, active, and generally friendly relationship with, for whatever reason — no, I don’t blame the pagans/polytheists in those situations because it’s not the pagans who created the very real situations they face. Those situations were created by the society that ultimately favours Christianity, by zealous Christians who’ve made those people’s situations so precarious, and by a judicial system that has a history of only paying lip-service to “separation of church and state” while ultimately favouring Christianity by a very wide margin. I do not blame the many pagans and polytheists who face those situations and are thus reluctant to “come out” — I may not completely understand, and some of those reasons why I will explain in a mo’, but I don’t blame (BIG difference).
That said, there are still many pagans and polytheists who are “out” as such, and doing pretty OK in spite of that. Still, I’d say only maybe a handful of these “out” pagans and polytheists, at best, are rendered “safe” due to relative pre-existing socio-political privilege — most who are “out” about their religions are living below an annual household income of US$35K, many are in poverty, and many are queer. The least-represented out pagans and polytheists in pagan media are non-white, but this does not stop many such pagans from being active in the pagan community on-line and off. Furthermore, in a society that favours people with high-paying jobs, families (including children of one’s own), and lots of friends, ANY pagan or polytheist who “comes out”, just like any GBLT person who does so, even in 2011, is putting themself at risk of losing all of that in addition to facing other discriminations one is not necessarily protected from, in spite of the United $tates and other countries protecting “freedom of religion”.
Outing oneself is not an act of privilege — it is an act of defiance. The primary reason to remain closeted is to protect what relative amount of privilege one may have by doing so: One will save their job, retain custody of children, preserve ties to a family whose love is apparently only conditional, and one absolutely will not put themselves, their family, or their property at risk of death threats, violence, or destruction.
…and yet there are still at least a handful of pagans and polytheists who will kvetsch and whinge about us “privileged” people who have some great luxury by being “out” about our religion. They poo-poo the out and proud and in-your-face about how love for one’s family is about sacrifice and doing things outside of one’s ordinary routine — and apparently they’re the only members of their own family who believe this, because they’re the only ones hiding, sometimes even lying “for love”. In a society that clearly favours those with families, remaining closeted is clearly an act of maintaining the airs of privilege to protect status. If the love of one’s family is so conditional as to be withheld over a difference of religion, I have to admit that while I don’t fault some-one for caving in to the charade, I don’t see the appeal.