The Green Eclectic

This morning on NPR I caught a story about how CNN anchor Don Lemon has come out of the closet. No, not that closet, the other (and arguably better known) closet.

Livelihood ‘On The Line,’ Anchorman Reveals He’s Gay, the headline reads on NPR’s site.  Lemon’s mentors and agents, to whom he was already Out, asked him whether or not he was ready and willing to carry the label of the gay anchor for the rest of his career.  To which he responded, “at this point, why the hell not?”  The article then went on to highlight all the reasons why there’s less risk associated with Coming Out these days: After all, Americans say they are accepting of homosexuality by nearly a two-to-one margin. The Defense Department is lifting the ban on gays in the military. Former Vice President Dick Cheney — hardly a liberal — has embraced the idea of gay marriage.

This highlights a jealousy I’ve held for quite awhile: America seemingly holds a far more progressive attitude toward non-heterosexuality than it does to Paganism.  I speak to friends of mine (particularly coworkers), who are openly gay and I can’t help but feel this deep mix of envy and gratitude and hope.  Envy in that I wish I could be so open at work, gratitude in that I’m thankful that they have the freedom to be a whole person in a public way, and hope in that perhaps I’ll be able to come fully Out of my closet before I retire.  Not that I want to be some sort of In Your Face Office Pagan, just that it’d be really lovely to take the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarters off without it being a big deal.  As it is, I’m always the one who volunteers to work on Christmas, and yet it seems there’s inevitably a meeting scheduled on my holidays.

Anyway, back to the topic of this post: why not have the same attitude toward coming Out that Lemon has?  Why not be willing to carry the label of the Pagan coworker/supervisor/management lead?  After all, there’s a commonly recognized camaraderie between Pagans and gays and their closeted/noncloseted status (particularly since there are quite a few people who deal with both those closets simultaneously).  So if Lemon and so many other public figures are willing to come Out, why aren’t the more public Pagan figures out there?

Part of it is probably just statistics.  It’s estimated that about five percent of Americans are gay.  While there are no really good numbers for either of these categories, the commonly-used number of Pagans in the US is a million.  Some light math brings us to 0.3 — the estimated percentage of Americans who are Pagan.  So there are many more people out there who identify as gay than there are who identify as Pagan.

But there’s also perception.  Not that gays have it easy by any stretch of the imagination — Lemon justifiably worried about perception in his decision to come Out.  “Most people would think if you’re the prime news anchor, then you should sort of be this Edward R. Murrow, Clark Kent guy with the family and 2.5 kids — or the perky, cute yet smart Katie Couric,” Lemon said in the NPR article. “Anyone would have to be naive to think that it wouldn’t make a difference.”

Not a news flash: others’ perception of you isn’t merely in your head, it’s unfortunately quite real and it’s just human nature.  And as we saw recently, even having one of those solid federal jobs, where they are all about non-discrimination and equal employment opportunity doesn’t keep others from harassing you or prevent your being let go on flimsy grounds if you’re Pagan.

What succinct closing statement do I have for this post?  I suppose the message is that while lots of prejudices still exist, slowly but surely America is becoming more accepting of people who have heretofore been marginalized, and that even though our time as Pagans to be Out is not yet at hand, it’s probably coming.  One of these days.  Would it be better if you and I and other normal people who also happen to be Pagan came Out in order to demonstrate to the world that Pagans aren’t all those nasty things people say they are?  Probably.  But you also have to look out for your own safety and security, and weigh that diligently.  Be yourself where you feel it’s safe to do so, and as time goes on perhaps more and more of us will feel able to be ourselves in increasingly public ways.


et cetera