Online Communities and the Broom Closet

[Trigger warning: homophobia, anti-Pagan bigotry, ranting]

In the wake of the recent drama around the Pagan/polytheist/whatever the fuck we’re calling ourselves this week blogosphere, there’s been a bit of discussion about community. whether there is or is not a “Pagan community” or whether or not online spaces “count” as a community, and such.

I just want to chime in and say that if it wasn’t for the online communities I’ve joined, whether groups on Facebook or fora like The Cauldron, I would find it very difficult to do religion. It’s kind of sad that I have to say this, but I would.

I live in two closets. I have told my mother that I am not interested in men sexually. She believes that I’ll turn around once I “try boys”. I haven’t said anything to my biological mother and stepdad because they make homophobic comments all the time and talk about wanting to slap gay men for DARING to kiss on a crowded beach. In short, I am concerned that if/when I do come out, I could be shunned or assaulted by my own blood because I’m queer, and that’s a scary thing.

I am also in the broom closet. In a nutshell, my a-mom thinks I’m an atheist, she calls my Pagan-y books “crap” and really doesn’t take any non-Catholic religion seriously. In fact, if I show the slightest interest in doing anything even remotely Pagan-y, she assumes I’ve gone and joined a cult. I am, after all, her sweet, innocent, naive daughter who couldn’t possibly make up her own mind about religion despite spending FOUR YEARS studying religion on a full time basis at university.

“How did you manage to collect so many tarot decks?” You ask.

To be honest, I have no idea, I think, somewhere inside my mom there is a very new agey part of her that believes in things like divination and TV psychics and stuff.

But then she turns around and gets mad at me for bringing home fiction about witches.

All I’m going to say is that there are certain things I’m writing that she’s never going to see, like Chapter 2 of The Tithe-Boy.

Some of us are not free to set up altars or shrines. Some of us are not free to make regular offerings, attend group meetings, conventions, or the like. Some of us are not free to do simple things that most Pagans don’t think twice about, and there are those who are not as lucky as I am, and who can’t have their tarot decks or books because their parents are super religious.

This is why online spaces are so important.

I have the advantage over my parents in that I am net savvy. The Internet is the one place where I can express myself as a Pagan, as a queer Pagan women, in places where there are other people like me. I have a very good reason why I don’t friend people I know in real life on Facebook, because sometimes (gods forbid) I don’t want to watch what I say, and I want to talk about things with others that people I know in real life just wouldn’t get. Sometimes I need a break from all the “compulsory monotheism” in my life, and I would rather have all the Internet Pagan Drama in the world than have to listen to my mom going on about how I’ve joined a cult and am only interested in “crap”.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother, but sometimes….sometimes….sometimes she just makes me sad. Very sad. Biomom is the same way.

My point is, online spaces are very important. For some of us, they’re all we have at some point in our lives, and I think some, having broken out of their closets (or having had the good fortune to grow up with open-minded folks) forget that.

Don’t forget.

7 thoughts on “Online Communities and the Broom Closet

  1. For us who can be free to be who we really are, that is freedom. Dear fellow sister you are free, no one can owe your soul. I ask the Deities you pray & honor to let eyes be opened, as well as people’s hearts. Your family will hopefully realize that there are many paths to the Divine. And you are free to love who you choose. May that day come to those who judge others. Love draws us to the one we desire.
    May Hathor grant you your heart’s desire & let your soul soar.

  2. I think perhaps one of the most damaging things in our day is that many do not take “online” as serious. No, there are some things that cannot account for the physical–like a relationship. No matter how many times you write “kiss,” you’re not really going to experience kissing. (And you can’t get pregnant from text-sex!) But to ignore or write off the online entirely is a grave mistake. I’ve stated over and over again: there’s no shame in online altar-spaces. Yes, it’s different… For me, I wouldn’t get the same results than if I did with my physical altar, however Online provides a place for my words, something that I cannot get on physically where I live (I tried; there’s just literally no Heathens around that I can find). For others, the time it takes to set up an altar online and all this, it’s a devotion in of itself. It’s a commitment. (One thing I offer is, considering my public altar status is suggestions and offerings from others who cannot have an altar for Loki and that I will offer for them–food, etc. Barring that I can do it, really. I don’t have much money, so no $500 statues, etc.) The community IS a community… Simple. If I wanted a Heathen community outside of online, to read works written by others, etc… I wouldn’t be able to do it. The way I found out about some of the festivals that I’m interested in going to… It’s through the internet. Through the polytheist and pagan community. Ignoring this is idiocy. And yes, if I truly wanted to or was completely excommunicated from it all, I could just shut down my blog and walk away; practice alone. But the internet is “real.” What happens on here DOES affect real life. When I read and listen to others, I learn. I can interact with others. It’s like writing letters or a book in a sense. It’s just more instant. (And something people often forget: not everything you read in a book is true. Authors are fallible. It’s not just the “internet’s fault.”) I may read about a person urging to work with the landvaettir more and therefore, I may contemplate on my own work with them and actually, well, do it… Devote to them, help them. In July, there’s the Month For Loki business. I am thinking about doing so because, after all, I like to give to my fulltrui. I wouldn’t necessarily think of these things. So, well, yea… The online community stuff IS important… Sometimes we need to remember it.

  3. Thank you. You reminded me where I came from and gave a ‘face’ to struggling pagans. I used to have to hide.
    I’m in a position now where my husband loves my deity, accepts my godspouse path and its struggles, I am beginning an offline , physical community. My husband is learning to do woodworking so he can build me a shrine on the property so people can come worship Thor in a physical place.
    But it was not always like this and I forget sometimes because I grow so comfortable in my blessings. I promise I will not forget. I’ll be offering prayers that you find an acceptable peace in your life where you are free to love and worship without fear of losing people you hold dear. It will happen. One day you will wake up and realize you are free and happy. Be ready, it can happen faster than you think possible.
    In the meantime, we may not always agree, but I’ll be one of many in your community, supporting you through prayers and virtual hugs.
    I, too, wouldn’t be what I am without the Online Community/Internet. None of us would.

  4. Pretty much, this. I’ve never understood the idea that there shouldn’t be a pagan-polytheist-etc. community — not because we have so much in common in any real sense, but because we have so much in common socially. We argue amongst ourselves and accentuate our differences, and then we forget that to outsiders, we’re all the same level of weird.

  5. I was where you are when I first started out — living at home in a very Christian-fundamentalist part of the U.S. — and there *was* no publicly-accessible Internet at the time. Circle Network News and Green Egg Magazine were my only connection to other Pagans, especially through the latter’s write-in forum in the back pages, So yeah, folks should cherish the online accessibility they’ve got now. It wasn’t always there for those of us who are geographically and socially isolated.

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