LGBT Pride season is over and done with for 2014. There may be a few events yet to happen, but June and July are the main months for such festivities. We’re now in full swing for the Pagan Pride season, August 1-October 31. Both are opportunities for “fringe” or “marginalized” segments of the community to celebrate their pride in themselves and share of their communities with the rest of the world.
In both instances it is sometimes dangerous or even life threatening to be out and proud. Around the world, in the Middle East, parts of Africa, Asia, even in some areas of Europe and the Americas it can be extremely dangerous to be out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. In many of those same countries, and elsewhere in the world, it can be very dangerous to be public about non-Abrahamic religious and spiritual paths. All we have to do is look to Uganda, South Africa, or Iraq to see what can and does happen to people who are either non-hetero or of a different religio-spiritual persuasion. The full-scale hunts of gay men in parts of Africa and the rabid accusations of witchcraft in South Africa or the displacement of the Yezidi in Iraq are just a few examples of what can happen to someone who is open or discovered to be “other” (or even rumored to be).
In the United States we are a little more lucky than some other parts of the world. Since the Civil Rights Movements and the Feminist Movement in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s we have seen gradual improvements in the public view of homosexuality and non-traditional religions. We still have many strides and baby steps to take before both segments of the greater community are accepted. Events like Pride and PPD help take those baby steps.
My personal experience with Pride events is limited to my immediate local community. I’ve sat a booth for Star City Pride the last four seasons. First to help the host of The Wimmins Show on our local community radio station, KZUM, and then with my co-host on Lavender Hill. Each time we are there representing KZUM. I’ve seen churches and local community outreach programs, as well as businesses, artists, and eateries with booths at the events. What I haven’t seen are visible representations of the Pagan community. I know that most of the local Pagan community is supportive of the LGBTQIAA community, they just don’t have a booth to share their support. I’ve heard that many other Pride events have Wiccan churches, Pagan temples, and other organizations sit booths or have some other visible presence.
Many LGBT community members are drawn to Pagan religions and spiritual philosophies. Wicca and other flavors of Paganism embrace the LGBTQ community, openly and without reservation. In my own local community the largest Wiccan church has many openly gay, lesbian, bi, or trans members. Many Unitarian churches have CUUPS chapters as well as LGBT Welcoming Committees, their memberships often overlap.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve not had the opportunity to attend any PPD events. I have attended several Pagan festivals in the Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado areas. Many of these having overlap with the LGBTQQIAA community.
Both communities can learn from each other. They have grown up alongside each other, though there was little overlap in the beginning – at least open overlap. I should point out here that the Feminist movement overlapped with the Pagan movement and the Lesbian community while the gay men’s community overlapped with certain segments of the early Pagan movement. A clear and distinct overlap was not present.
In my first post with Pagan Activist I wrote about how some in the Pagan community have difficulty accepting transgender persons. The outpouring of support and response from other segments of the Pagan world showed that those who have difficulty are a minority. What I wrote about there is only one example of how Pagans need to work on their acceptance of “the other” within their own community. It should be obvious that I am going to focus on the acceptance of the LGBT community in this article, but the intersectionality of the Pagan world is far from limited to that. Others on this site have written about Pagan issues with physical disabilities, mental illness, dietary preferences and the like. I’ll leave it for them to continue on that topic of they desire.
It has been my personal experience that much of the discrimination and ‘phobia around homosexuality (bisexuality, transgender, gender fluidity, etc) can be traced to the simple fact of ignorance. In the past I would frequently encounter people who were homophobic because they did not know someone who was gay. Being open, frank, and honest with them helped to open their eyes to the reality of what knowing a gay person means. Quite often those same people would come back to me days, weeks, even years later, and apologize for their past words and actions against myself or other members of the LGBT community. Saying that getting to know me helped them to understand that a gay person is pretty much like a straight person.
The same holds true for when someone who is afraid of Pagans, or the concept of Paganism, gets to know someone who is Pagan. When you boil it down to the base elements of spirituality and religion, there is not much of a difference between Paganism (in its many flavors) and the Abrahamic traditions. I know, I’m going to get a lot of flak for that statement. I believe it to be true. The real differences are a matter of perception – how we as Pagans see the Divine compared to how members of the Abrahamic faiths see the Divine. Even within Paganism there is a vast difference in that perception. But stop and think, don’t all religions give guidelines on morality? Don’t they all address the afterlife (whether or not there is one in that faith)?
Being open and willing to talk with people about your religious and spiritual beliefs, about your sexual identity, or about both can go a long way to resolving issues that may come up when someone is suffering from that all too common intellectual affliction called ignorance. When time allows, even at work, I will try to dispel misconceptions that someone might have about my religious and spiritual beliefs or about my sexual identity. I’m rather open and frank about things in my life. The majority of my customers know that I am gay, many have learned that I am Pagan. All o my coworkers know and are cool with it all. I can also go years working with someone and them not knowing that I am gay. If it never comes up in conversation, it never comes up.
Ultimately, how you choose to work within one or the other or both communities is up to you. It is my experience that being able to work openly within both makes for a happier and healthier life. I’d imagine that most of the readers of this site are Pagan of some sort or another. Think back to an experience you’ve had an event where someone who was gay came into the gathering and was uncomfortable because they seemed to be the “only one”. Maybe you were that person. What did you do to help make them comfortable? What was done to help make you comfortable? What do you wish had been done?
You may have noticed that throughout this article I’ve used several acronyms for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. I did so because there are far more “flavors” to non-heteronormative sexualities and identities than lesbian, gay, bi, and trans.