I toyed with putting my face and name to the blog for a while, and even had an author photo for a week or two, and released a video, before finally pulling both.
I am not anywhere near shy about being a Heathen in person. My hammers are on display, and I’m always looking for bigger ones to wear. (There’s a dick joke in there, somewhere.) I consider it important to go about my business as a visible Heathen, and am always prepared to answer questions about what I do if I encounter someone curious. I’ve done it before.
Because it should not be shameful, and I therefore have no reason to behave shamefully. And if I cower, or hide, from visibly aligning myself with my faith, I leave more room for encroachment by dangerous extremists.
But I still compartmentalize, and keep my legal identity separate from my online, religiously focused presence. I am very comfortable with people learning about paganism through me, I’m far less comfortable with people learning about me through my paganism. Even in a job where I knew for a fact I was working with other pagans, I didn’t say much of anything until the end of the season, except to a customer who also sported a Mjolnir.
In-person situations like moots, blots/seges, and pagan pride are wide open. My paganism is accessible to other pagans by the very nature of the situations in which I meet them. That’s a given. There’s an implicit contract that I can generally lean on, because most of us agree that revealing somebody’s practice against their will is a terrible thing to do.
I keep my face hidden not because of shame, but because I am anxious about the consequences of visibility within the wider community, where I can’t exercise even a little bit of control. On the internet in general, really. Perhaps this would be different, if I were part of a religion with far less baggage than Heathenry, and could afford to be less worried about what kinds of people I might piss off. Having had a stalker situation before (not Heathenry-related, just a creep who couldn’t fathom why repeated boundary violations made me not want to be accessible to her anymore), I’m a lot more stringent about my personal information than most people. I obsessively check and cover my online trail every few months, and make sure my info is pulled off of people-finder sites. If I ever decide to self-host and monetize this blog, it’s a pretty safe bet I’ll be springing for WhoIs protection.
Again, the control thing. I’ve had it taken away too many times to feel secure in surrendering a whole lot of it. But there is a very real chance that I am overestimating the risk, at least as it relates to Heathenry.
And that has me wondering a bit, as someone who’s pledge-bound to assist other Heathens as well as I can, whether I need to be the rest of the way out of the proverbial broom closet to achieve that. It’s literally a requirement for working in certain pagan-focused organizations.
And if so, at what point can I claim that’s the case?
I’m not even saying, like, “is the broom closet even real” and trying to deconstruct that concept. Because, that’s experiential. And I’m experiencing that. So it’s functionally very real.
Though I don’t like the phrase “broom closet” very much, but that’s a whole other thing.
Realistically, as someone progressively ramping up my involvement in local Heathen scenes, someone who’s doing captioning work for panels run by Heathens, who wants to work as clergy someday, I know I cannot stay hidden forever. Especially because there have already been lapses in judgement where I link myself to my overt pagan presence online. Not often. But they’ve happened.
Even putting my social media to my legal identity when joining the Troth was an anxiety-inducing step, even though I’ve wanted to join the Troth since about February.
I hope, someday, I’ll be braver. I am a painfully shy person in real life.
…until somebody cracks a dirty joke at a moot, at least. By all means, make dirty Heathen jokes.
7 thoughts on “Shyness, Shame, and Sh*tty Broom Closet Doorknobs”
I’m iffy about it, too. I got burned once and it was awful. I like to actually know the people that I’m out to. Strangers on the internet can be trolls and I don’t have time or spoons for that. Plus, I have a child to protect. So I’m right there with you. Proud, but picky. ❤️
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“Proud but picky” is a VERY accurate and concise way to phrase it! I would have never boiled it down that well if put to the task.
I can’t imagine how much more complicated it gets with kids in the mix, because then those decisions always have to factor them in. I don’t have kids (just a dog I insist on calling my son, lol) but I know when I do it’s going to be a whole other can of worms when it comes to disclosure.
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It does complicate things. So much. But in a good way. And hey, furry kids totally count! ❤️
I understand the hesitation. I would waffle back and forth at times when I first came to Heathenry, but because I’m a public figure in The Troth (Eastern Canada Steward) I could not and cannot be all that private. But here’s the thing I did back when I was younger, its going to sound crazy but it was the only desperate way I could think of to protect myself from creeps ‘wanting’ something from me…. I gained a lot of weight and generally made myself unattractive. The attention stopped almost immediately. I would not recommend it to anyone as a method, lol. But what I’m saying is that I understand how you feel. I hate that FB insisted everyone use their real names. I never wanted to do that. But at the same time, the internet would be a VERY scary place if people did not use their real names. Just imagine the amount of mistrust that would be generated by NOT knowing who one was speaking to online? It could be much worse. My best recommendation is to not put any personal information online, such as address or phone number, or family members identities. Just keep it professional. 🙂
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It’s complicated! And unfortunately I can attest to the sudden cutoff in attention that gaining weight brings. I hit about 160lbs in my very early twenties (hefty, at my stature) and the catcalling disappeared. Which I liked, but also troubles me as someone who strongly believes people of any weight deserve positive attention. (Far better if it’s genuine, though.)
To be honest, I don’t even use my full real name on FB, my current name was in use before the change and was grandfathered in, but it will require ID to update when I’m ready to change it again. It’s also very strange to see people I’m familiar with as Sparkle Puca over in FB groups, because I know SP and I are the same person, but they don’t, so approaching them with the familiarity that would otherwise be appropriate, kinda……isn’t, because of the anonymity. But much of my identifying stuff doesn’t go on FB other than photos of myself and my dog.
I keep getting the urge to put my face to my work, so it’s clearly getting to be time if it isn’t yet–and I don’t think it is JUST yet. We’ll see, lol.
Would love to know who you are, now that you are a troth member. If you’d like to share that info with me, drop me a line at ecansteward at thetroth.org !
The internet emboldens abusers, who often think they can abuse others without consequences.
And twitter etc is really bad about only dealing with abuse that gets celebrity level attention.
And abusers who face no consequences escalate.
So it’s a really good idea to not use your legal name online.