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.