When Coming Out of the Broom Closet Goes Wrong: What to Do When Your Family Reacts Badly
Becoming a witch (or realizing you always were one!) is an exciting process. You're learning so much about yourself and your magickal abilities, what you do and don't believe, and how you can integrate your practice into your old life. Unfortunately, this exciting time in a witch's life is often overshadowed by friends and family who are less than understanding.
Prejudice against witches is nothing new. Although the numbers and facts of the "Burning Times" are a subject of debate, few would argue that witches have always felt pressure to hide our craft to some degree. Whether the pressure is coming from friends and family or coworkers and acquaintances, here are some tips on dealing with a rocky first ride out of the broom closet.
Discrimination vs. Disagreement
Discrimination and prejudice are big words with even bigger meanings. It's okay if not everyone you tell you're a witch understands or wants to celebrate with you right away. While you've probably spent hours if not months researching your newfound practice, your friends and family probably hold many of the same misconceptions about witchcraft as the general public. Many of the books and documentaries supposedly devoted to educating about witchcraft are often part of the problem.
While it can be disappointing when the people we love don't understand something important to us, it's crucial to be patient and remember that unless you were raised in the craft, you had the same misgivings once yourself. If they ask questions in a respectful way, try to provide answers without proselytizing. If they express fears about your safety or spirituality, take the high road and resist the kneejerk reaction to respond angrily or sarcastically. If you calmly explain your beliefs and they still don't respect them, it's time to set some boundaries and move on. No one was ever convinced of a religious argument in a screaming match.
The Broom Closet (One of My Favorite Witchy Youtubers)
Speaking of boundaries, let's talk about how and when to set some. If your interactions with friends and family members who are unhappy about you becoming a witch go beyond disagreement and into the realm of harassment, you have the right to make it stop. It takes two to tango, even if only one person is being cruel and aggressive. Remember that you have the right to remove yourself from any conversation at any time, and from any relationship, for that matter.
These are all examples of ways you can set a boundary when a conversation about witchcraft has gone too far:
- "I'm sorry, but if you're going to keep using that tone/those words, I can't continue this conversation."
- "I love you, and I respect your opinions, but this is a part of my life that isn't going to change. I'll let you take some time to decide if you can accept me the way I am."
- "We're just talking in circles at this point. I don't want to force you to change your mind, and you aren't going to change mine with this behavior. Let's both take some time to cool off."
- "I enjoy our conversations, but I think we're both too emotional about this subject to have a productive debate. In the future, I'm going to have to leave/hang up if you bring this up."
- "I'm more than happy to talk about my practice, but not if you keep using those words. Please try to think of how you'd feel if I said that about your faith."
Consider Whether It's Worth Opening the Closet
Over the years, I've witnessed a lot of pressure (especially on younger witches) to come out of the broom closet entirely and soon. This is unfortunate for quite a few reasons, but especially because we all have such vastly different dynamics between our home lives, social circles and professional spheres. One witch may be proud of herself at coming out of the broom closet when she was 16, but she has no right to judge another witch who hasn't told a soul outside of her online friends at age 40.
For all we know, the Out Witch has an incredibly supportive group of friends and family and she works in an occult shop. No friction there! The other witch may live in a deeply religious area where there would be real, potentially dangerous consequences for coming out of the broom closet. It's important, especially for those of us who live in progressive areas of the world, to remember that not all witches are so privileged. Many risk losing friends, family, jobs and even physical harm if the wrong person finds out what they believe and what they practice.
The moral of the story is to never let someone make you feel guilty for keeping your practice to yourself. You'll know when you're ready to tell someone and who you can trust to listen. Giving in to the pressure to broadcast your witch status from the mountaintops can only lead to regret, if only because you didn't listen to your instincts.
Maybe your grandparents or your coworkers didn't take kindly to the revelation that you celebrate Yule rather than Christmas, but that doesn't mean everyone in your life is against you. If you do have people who support or at least understand your desire to practice witchcraft, focus on cultivating those relationships. When someone rejects us, especially if it's someone close to us, it can hurt so badly that we project that rejection onto a much bigger screen than it deserves.
When you're going through a hard time dealing with prejudice against witchcraft, the supportive people in your life are your safety net. They don't even have to be witches, just people you can talk to about the emotional difficulties of coming out of the broom closet. If you don't have anyone like this in your life, consider reaching out to online support groups or local pagan meetups (granted that you're an adult and practice safety and common sense, of course!)
Know Your Rights
Employers are forbidden from allowing a hostile work environment or discriminating against individuals for religious reasons. If you feel that you've become the target of workplace harassment due to your witchcraft practice, speak with your supervisor or human resources representative. Everyone deserves a safe and productive work environment, and an employer who is unwilling to provide one leaves himself open to legal action or corporate sanction at the very least.
Know When Enough is Enough
It's an all too common blunder that I think we all commit at one point or another (I know my poor husband could attest to this!) You're so excited about that new tarot deck/video posted by your favorite witchy Youtuber/grimoire you downloaded to your tablet that you just can't help but want to share it with anyone who will listen. While it's great to share the things we're passionate about, including witchcraft, with the people we love, there's also an art to knowing when to tone it down.
Sometimes people respond badly to witchcraft itself, while other times they respond to a perceived change in someone they liked just the way they were. Witchcraft is a transformative practice to say the least, but if you go from being someone with a variety of interests and hobbies to someone who is unable to talk about anything but ancient occult texts overnight, your loved ones aren't going to have the best impression of witchcraft, are they?
Contrary to popular belief, witchcraft is the furthest thing from a cult there is, but that doesn't mean that some of us don't act like it in the beginning. It's so important to temper that fledgling witch enthusiasm with an understanding that, as unfathomable as it is, not everyone around us finds our interests so... well, interesting. (And let's be honest, how many of us get bleary-eyed when the sports fanatics in our lives start dissecting plays second-by-second or rambling off stats like Rain Man?) Of course, witchcraft is more than just a hobby, but the simple fact is that most regular folk don't see it that way, even if they want to understand. Reassure your friends and family that you're still the same person you were before witchcraft (just a better version) and they're more likely to come around.
Experiences With Coming Out of the Broom Closet
Share your thoughts and experiences with coming out of the broom comments in the comments below and be sure to let me know of any more tips for dealing with unsupportive friends and family!