(First of all, thank you to everyone for your kind words on my last post. I am still recovering emotionally; writing about other things is helping. Here, have some.)
So recently there’s been some talk about people jumping ship from things like Facebook over to Google Plus. It’s apparently even great for pagans.
I wouldn’t know. A few months ago, Google suspended my account after less than a month since I was listed as “Lupa Greenwolf” instead of my government-recognized name. Since my professional pen/personal pagan name wasn’t good enough for G+, my profile remains suspended–that image above is a screen shot taken from my browser when I go to the G+ page. I could change my name on this account to my legal name and still be able to live my life more or less the way I do now, but I have a number of personal reasons for preferring to be “Lupa” in the pagan community, and keeping my legal name reserved for other parts of my life. I’m not a tightly closeted person, but it’s my choice to present myself under one name or another.
I’m lucky that I was able to make that decision, because there are a LOT of people who don’t have that choice either way. Pagans who would have much worse consequences if they decloseted. People who use the internet to connect with queer, poly, or other minority folks and don’t wish to connect those to their legal names. And, of course, people who have been the victims of stalking, domestic assault, and other crimes who don’t want to make it easy for their attackers to get at them again.
If you can be out of whatever closet by choice and not force? Great! But understand that you have a privilege that many others do not. Your privilege is that you have the option to decloset (or not) and can decide whether you feel you can handle whatever negative consequences may occur without having it made for you.
So who are you?
–Chances are good you don’t have children, or at least don’t have to worry about someone trying to wrest away custody using your religion, sexuality, etc. as a lever. Or you feel that you have enough grounding to win a custody case, and so aren’t concerned.
–If you do have children, you don’t feel particularly concerned about the effects having decloseted parents could have on them in school and other situations. You feel either that there are no real risks, or you feel capable of handling the risks, and you feel that your children will be sufficiently protected physically and psychologically from the potential effects of your decisions.
–If you are in one or more relationships, you do not feel that your partners are at sufficient risk that you should stay closeted to protect them, nor do your partners feel threatened enough by potential risk to protest your decloseting, or even end their relationships with you. Or you can afford the potential loss of your relationship(s) and not be so badly financially and/or emotionally harmed by that loss that it would be better to stay in the closet.
–You also probably are either securely employed in a non-bigoted environment, can easily choose to move to another work environment, are self-employed, independently wealthy, have a spouse, partner, or sugar daddy/mama who is capable of supporting you no matter what, or otherwise don’t have to worry about your source of income being destroyed by bigoted employers/coworkers/systems.
–You’re probably fortunate enough to have people who support you emotionally and psychologically, a safe buffer of friends and/or family who will give you safe space for being who you are and who you know won’t abandon you.
–You can handle the potential loss of people who may turn on you entirely if they find out, or are capable of dealing with harassment from them if they stay in your life, or if you can’t get away from them. Additionally, you are not dependent on these toxic people for a place to live, food to eat, support in school, or in the case of minors, legal dependency.
In other words, while you may face risks due to decloseting, you feel you are capable of handling them and can consciously take them on by being public about who and what you are. You may even face the same risks as someone who stays in the closet, but you feel more prepared and able to face them than the other person.
Granted, there are exceptions to every rule, but given what I’ve seen of closeted vs. uncloseted folks, the above are very common descriptors of the willfully decloseted. It doesn’t make you a bad person, or a good person for that matter, but these are all privileges that not everyone has.
Moreover, it’s a dick move to criticize people who stay closeted to any degree, or their reasons for doing so. Not every decloseted person attacks their closeted associates, but some do. I have seen many people over the years complain about people not decloseting, whether that was the broom closet or the queer closet or whatever closet others were using for protection, I’ve seen them called traitors, and I’ve seen the blame for continuing discrimination against everyone else laid at their feet for not standing up and being visible. I’ve seen pagans say “You should have nothing to hide if you’re strong in your faith”. I’ve seen radical queers tell closeted queers that all they’re doing is milking the “benefits” of the closet and not taking the full brunt of queerphobia. I’ve seen closeted people being told that by staying in the closet, they’re actively supporting the bigots themselves.
And the criticism is always by people who are ignorant of their own privilege, sometimes willfully so. They’re people who have financial, psychological, logistic, or other advantages that many of the closeted do not, the ones I mentioned earlier. They can’t seem to see past their own self-righteous tunnel vision to see that not everyone has the same options they do, and may not be as safe as they are.
Before you start complaining about how I’m attacking the decloseted, this is what I mean by privilege: Privilege isn’t a criticism of the fact that you HAVE something; it’s a reminder that not everyone ELSE has what you have, and that affects the options each of you have access to in a given situation. The criticism comes when you forget that imbalance, and act in spite of it, and thereby harm those without your privilege.
Why is this important? As individuals move, so moves the community. If the community only moves in the direction of privilege, then it begins to exclude those without privilege more and more. (We already see this with struggles with transphobia and racism in the pagan community.) A pagan community that relies more heavily on G+, for example, excludes those who cannot be decloseted or otherwise link their legal name to their involvement with paganism.
So if you’re considering making yourself a G+ only kind of pagan, using your legal name openly as a pagan, by all means please make your decision as you will. But as you do, please remember that you get to have that privilege, and how ignoring privilege can affect the larger community over time, with each decision an individual makes.
ETA: I have since found out that the name issue with G+ has been relaxed, and have submitted an appeal to see if they’ll unsuspend my account. Even if they do, that still doesn’t solve the overarching issue of closeting vs. decloseting, which is what this post is about–G+ was just one convenient example.