Feb 052011

Full disclosure:  I am on the executive committee for IPCOD so I have some bias.  Arthur is also a dear friend of mine so I am grateful to him for helping me promote the Pagan Coming Out Day Mission.

You may have heard the buzz.  International Pagan Coming Out Day, spearheaded by PNC political blogger Cara Schulz, is May 2, 2011.  I wanted to help spread the word far and wide, but it felt disingenuous for me to promote a cause I am so passionate about here on The Juggler without a pop-culture tie in with which to do so.  Enter musician Arthur Hinds.  You might know him best from the band Emerald Rose.  Arthur is also a solo musician and released an album titled “Poetry of Wonder” in 2008.  The album features empowering Pagan themes including the songs “Circle of Love”, “Never Underestimate” and “Pantheon”.  Arthur kindly agreed to answer a few questions in regards to International Pagan Coming Out day and so I am pleased to share that exchange with you here at The Juggler.

PNC: Poetry of Wonder has a lot of very pagan themes. Since you are clearly “out” as a musician are there any aspects of your life that you would rather keep religion out of?

Arthur: Well you are right, I am currently very out as a musician, but in every way actually. Anyone who spends 5 minutes on the Internet will know who I am, and what I believe. My religion is fully integrated into my life; there are no aspects of my life that faith does not take part in. Almost everything I do is moved by it. That doesn’t mean that I stick my faith out there in people faces, but it does mean it is central to my being.

PNC: What do you think of having a formalized Pagan Coming Out day?

Arthur: The idea of a formalized pagan coming out day I think I has two edges. First of all, I hope that, for many people, it may give them strength or the moment to speak of who they are. I also hope that they have the wisdom not to speak it where it doesn’t belong. I do not believe in rubbing it in people’s faces anymore that I enjoy having another faith splashed in mine. I also hope that eventually the purpose for the day will simply fade away entirely and Pagans need not feel imprisoned by the secrecy they fear is necessary.

PNC: Do you plan to honor May 2nd as Pagan Coming out day this year and if so, how?

Arthur: I am looking to release a new song in honor of the day. It is about the path of being Pagan.

PNC: I reserve the right to review your new song for the Juggler upon its release. I am so excited that you are doing that!

For some people, coming out is a very definitive moment in their lives. For others, it is simply organic. Would you be willing to share your “coming out” story? I know you were raised Unitarian Universalist, so I imagine you had a higher level of religious freedom growing up than many others experience.

Arthur: Well, as you say, I was raised Unitarian Universalist. I was taught that there are many paths up the mountain to God. I was also taught how to find what I believe, so coming out to my parents was nowhere near as difficult as a great many folks find it. Because I was raised UU, I have never really had a chip on my shoulder about Christianity, and that makes my integration into the larger religious world, I think, less difficult.

In truth, there are many “coming out” experiences. I never go out of my way to “preach,” but just in conversation, questions will come up. I never dodge issues when asked, but always answer them truthfully, so there are sometimes difficult moments. I would be lying to you, if I said I never get a tingling or lump in my stomach in those encounters.

But, these moments gift me with a wonderful chance to calm fear and educate. Fear is our enemy, not the people who are afflicted with it. How can we expect the uniformed or misinformed to understand? Also, often a seeker discovers themselves at such a time.

PNC: What lessons have you learned over the years being a prominent Pagan musician?

Arthur: As I have traveled and shared songs and danced and played with Pagan musicians specifically, but with Pagans generally, I have learned that indeed there are many paths up the mountain to Goddess/God. I have learned that there is a constantly expanding course of ways to learn, and new/old mysteries to explore. I am in awe of the great diversity of power and creativity that we as Pagans generate. I am proud to wear that label “Pagan Musician.”

PNC: If there is one piece of advice you can give to someone who is currently on the fence about opening up to a loved one, what would that be?

Arthur: In many a vision, there is written over the portal to advancement, “Know thyself.” I would suggest anyone who is contemplating coming out to a loved one to examine why they want to. Will good come of it? Do you really need to tell your 83 year old grandmother who you are sure would be horrified?

Once you are sure that is it the right time to explain your path, I vote for slow and gentle faith comparisons one on one. Announcing at the Christmas dinner table, “Hey Y’all I’m Witch” would not be the path of wisdom in my opinion. I am, however, a quadruple Pisces so that may color my response.

PNC: You, sir, are amazing. Thank you so much for this! I owe you a beer, at least.

  12 Responses to “Exclusive Interview with Arthur Hinds on International Pagan Coming Out Day”

  1. I’m disappointed in the usage of “coming out,” which makes it look like straight pagans attempting to co-opt the term used by GLBTQ folks to handle explaining their sexual orientation. Religion is not the same as an immutable trait such as sexual orientation or the matter of gender identity. I’d have loved to see Hinds explain why he thinks it’s a valid borrowing instead of glossing over how this is going to look to a lot of people who might otherwise be sympathetic. It’s why I also avoid Pagan Pride celebrations. I’m tired of seeing my orientation’s issues and culture borrowed by a mostly-straight group of people who don’t get it.

  2. Hey Lysana- well there are a lot of straight Pagans out there, aren’t there? Any LGBTQ Pagan who has ever been to a Gathering is really aware: Paganism is a hugely Hetero movement. I have to say that for myself, I’m thrilled over the Pagan Coming Out thing, tho- because of its Gay/Queer usage, “coming out” has become a brief, snappy phrase that instantly communicates its term and is relatively well-known; it “clicks” on a level that Some Other Phrase is not to connect with as quickly or as clearly. For some time, I’ve been really fascinated by the parallels between the Gay/Queer movement and the Pagan movement, in terms of being “Closeted/Out”: Pagans, like Gays, often have a choice to “pass” and remain invisible, or to “come out” and be open.
    I think the Gay Rights movement can serve as an interesting template for the Next Stage of Popular Paganism; I’m kind of glad to see smart Pagans latching onto Gay Rights concepts, cause I think the past 40 years of Gay “coming out” can serve as a really useful guide in how to get Pagans to that next step. I’m kind of psyched to see Hetero Pagans (so very many Het Pagans out there) making an identification with the Gay struggles, in adopting and recognizing “being closeted and coming out” as concepts that apply to them as well. As a Gay Male Pagan, I have always found a HUGE degree of acceptance and respect among Mainly Hetero Pagans; one of the things that I love about Paganism is its determination to find space for its QLGBT members. I find it empowering actually, to see my Hetero Sister and Brother Pagans consciously turning to the examples and lessons of the Queer Rights Movements- cause look how far we Gay folks have come since the 60s.
    I’m sorry that you feel this way, Lysana; I don’t see the Pagan Coming Out movement as a co-opting of Queer culture, but as a learning from and being guided by our example.

  3. Zan, thank you for your response. You are exactly right. Our mission is not to co-opt anything but to follow the example because we are inspired by it.

    In Arthur’s defense, he was simply using the same language I was using.

  4. See- in a sociological way, I find all this very interesting. (1) for most of my life (I’m in my mid-40s), “Gay” was THE ONE THING you DID NOT want to be; “Gay” is what got dropped faster than fire- anything “Gay.” Yet- here is this (yeak, ok, let’s get real) really hetero Pagan thing (admittedly LGBTQs included)- actually identifying WITH the Gay coming-out concept. On the Gay side- this validates the efforts of Gay Activist Pioneers for the past 40 years, in that here- is a Pagan Movement of people studying the moves of Gay Pioneers for inspirations on how to proceed.
    Straights are imitating and following Gays here- and as a Gay Guy Pagan, please allow me to state again how impressive I find the Pagan movement on the whole, being (obviously) made up of a Huge Bunch of straight people who are unafraid to go, let us do as the Gays have done, let us make self-conscious associations with Gay Culture, that’s actually very cool of you guys, thank you- Could maybe this be an example, Lysana, of the ways in which Gay people serve as the pioneers for culture at large- we’re the ones who figure out how to chart the un-navigated pathways.

  5. Lysana – I know quite a few GLBT pagans whose experiences with leaving one closet prepped them for leaving the other one.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When I pitched a show about pagans and tolerance to a local radio station’s talk show, I deliberately drew a comparison between GLBT social progress of the last decades and where paganism is now. When the producer asked me why I, as a member of a group largely considered unacceptable in our community, wanted to identify with a group that is also still considered by some to be unacceptable, I told her because they laid foundations that we’re learning from, and the best compliment I can give is that I find someone’s trailblazing worth following.

  6. This article was a great beginning, Laura. I hope that you’ll consider covering this topic with additional articles as we approach Beltane.

    zan, there is nothing I can add to the aptness of your responses. But let me say that one important reason that I am Pagan today is that once my friends came out to me after high school, I found it very hard to share in any sort of corporate worship experience where my friends would not be welcome. It was such a frakking relief to finally find a religion where I didn’t have to negotiate the boundaries of that hatred. I’m happy that we have the LGBTQ movement’s wisdom to follow, but I’m even more happy to be able to set down the burden of hatred around so-called sexual norms, enter Circle and affirm “…all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”..

  7. Zan- You make some good points. I would say with regard to the template thing, that in many ways the LGBTQ movement has also built upon the phrasiology of the past, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the worker’ movement and Gandhi’s movement in India. I’m not so sure that it is as much a template to pagans than it is a learning tool. If anything it show yet again how mainstream LGBTQ ideas have become that others have used them as good examples.

    As someone who has been in the ‘broom closet” for most of my 52 years and plans to “come out” on May 2, I can tell you all about the debilitating agony of not being able to say things, to express things, to swallow what it is you really believe, at Thanksgiving and Christmas with family. When relationships with a woman get serious there is the awkward question “do I tell her like I did last time and watch the whole thing fall to the floor again?” And those are just the personal things – not to mention being subjected to violence and isolation, particularly out in the ‘country’ from whence the word ‘pagan’ comes.

    As someone who is straight and not narrow I can tell you that in the scads of conversations I have had with LGBTQ’s (I wish there was a better collective word, that seems grammatically awkward) that what I have gone through in my life is parallel in almost every way except sexual.

    With regard to the “hetero Pagan” idea you put forth, is simply isn’t true. While Gerald Gardner was a notable and proven homophobe, he was only one person, and not the founder of our movement. Many of the original leaders of the Craft and and paganism in general were very gay and out there and continue to be to this very day if they haven’t died yet. Leo Martello is one, Z. Budapest is another. With regard to the path, we work with male/female polarities and make, as a first assumption, that they are within a person at the same time. That is not hetero any more than the concept of electricity or gravity are. And the huge population of Gay covens, Dianic covens, and mixed covens is a testament to that. The gay handfasting my wife and I did while anecdotal is likewise. The group I circle with is decidely mixed, and rarely does the topic arise, but never is it avoided. Plenty of talk about menopause though ;) The greater community I am with is also quite mixed, and I think, that if there were any inkling of hostility towards gays, that they would simply not be invited back. If a gay person doesn’t feel comfortable coming out to a bunch of pagans, then I think they are kidding themselves, I think we are the most encouraging and accepting religious group there is. For someone else’s take here is a random article I found in about 6 seconds: http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usla&c=gay&id=10740

    I plan on asking several people that I know for their advice on my own coming out. I find Arthur’s interview here and past conversations quite helpful. I will also be asking my friend Anthony who I have always looked up to, and my young friend Victoria (formerly a male) who I admire immensely because I know they went through the same kind of struggle, and as intensely and with more angst if not moreso.

    Far from co-opting we see the Gay Rights movement as an example on the hill that we can point to and say “See? We can do that too”. That makes their movement pioneers, forebears, and heroes, and in that way, our hat is off to them for that.

    That doesn’t mean that we need to emulate them in every way – we are different concepts after all. As Arthur mentioned, it’s not an in your face kind of thing. I don’t like having other people’s religion splashed in my face either. So by that token, I don’t think we should follow the example of “Act Up”. Others will no doubt disagree. But then, we are a large subculture, and there isn’t even consensus on Act Up’s tactics even within the LGBTQ paradigm.

  8. Hello,

    I’m Cara Schulz and I’m chair of committee for Pagan Coming Out Day. I wanted the conversation to move forward a bit before I commented.

    I can understand how some people may look at the terminology ‘coming out’ and feel that Pagans are co-opting this from the LGBT community. Like Zan, I don’t see it that way. What the LGBT community has done, and continues to do, to work towards equity is an inspiration. Zan really did a great job of explaining this view.

    The one thing I did want to add is that it was the LGBT community (Pagan and otherwise) who have been encouraging Pagans to follow their lead. I’ve been on the receiving end of many a ‘suck it up and come out’ conversation from them. They’ve been adamant that coming out is both needed and the only way we can achieve equity – which is different from only securing rights. Many in the LGBT community have said that they hope their fight inspires other groups and that we can learn from their successes and challenges. I share that hope.

    Cara Schulz

  9. [...] rock band Emerald Rose, and a longtime fixture on the Pagan festival circuit. Laura LaVoie from The Juggler interviews Arthur about being an “out” Pagan musician in honor of International Pagan Coming Out Day (May 2nd, 2011). “The idea of a formalized [...]

  10. [...] may also wish to read endorsements from Pagans like T. Thorn Coyle, Phaedra Bonewits, Star Foster, Arthur Hinds, and many more at the IPCOD site and IPCOD’s official Facebook page. “There will be [...]

  11. [...] really enjoyed her show. I also enjoyed the song where she brought Arthur Hinds from Emerald Rose on stage to sing and drum with her. Since this was the first time I had heard any [...]

  12. [...] PsyD. You may also wish to read endorsements from Pagans like T. Thorn Coyle, Phaedra Bonewits, Arthur Hinds, and many more at the IPCOD site and IPCOD’s official Facebook page.“Recently I have re [...]

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