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Lady Autumn Speaks

Essays~ Coming out of the Broom Closet: My Tale

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In the wake of a national tragedy, one Army wife gains the courage to fly out of the broom closet!

 

Coming out of the broom closet was not something I was quite yet ready to do. Then it happened… people ask, “Where were you on the morning of September 11th, 2001? I was sleeping in when I received a frantic call from my best friend to wake up and turn on the television. That is where I remained for the next 6 hours, watching the TV in horror waiting to get a call from my husband saying that he was all right. That call never came. My husband is a medic in the Army. He is one of those “quiet professionals,” he is not allowed to talk about what he does for a living past “I am just a medic.” He left a few days prior on what the military calls TDY, it stands for Temporary Duty, but to a military wife it usually stands for… “Training somewhere and can’t talk about it Hun.” I called every number I had for him and no response, I called his supervisors and they could not locate his aircraft, I was in a panic. My mind raced for days wondering if he was OK. Then he walked through the front door about 4 days later. I was relieved, we talked for hours, and the reality of what had happened really hit home and we both knew that he would not be home long. The next morning I went with him to “compound” and updated all of our emergency forms, the will, everything, including the emergency contact form. The chaplain handed me my “emergency notification form” and asked me if everything on it was current. On the line for declared religion, it said Christian. For years, I had just left that line the way it was thinking that if I put what I really wanted to, it would hurt his career. I looked into the chaplains eyes and then at the crosses on his lapels, and thought to myself… what do I have to loose? This man is a man of God, right? Even if he is a strict Roman Catholic, he could not possibly attack a wife for her convictions, right? And do I really want him to come to my doorstep in the event that my husband is hurt or killed? Will a man I do not know, who only knows how to counsel based on his own religion be able to provide me comfort? The only answer that I knew that was true was that I would not be in the state of mind to make any decisions if that notification party arrived on my doorstep. So I asked him for a new form. Then I sat down and made the step that until that moment, I had not been ready to make… my pen paused briefly and then I wrote it… WICCA. On the next line, I was to put the name of my personal priest, I wrote the names of my High Priest and Priestess. And on the line for other support persons, I put the names of all of my coven mates. Then I included the name of a Methodist minister and his wife who happen to be very dear friends of mine. Then I handed back the form to the chaplain. He looked at me and said, “Is this a joke?” I straightened my posture and said, “No sir, my faith is no laughing matter. I expect that each person on that form be present if you have bad news to report to me. If you cannot find each of those people, do not bother notifying me until you do.” He gave me one of those “Oh you poor soul, you need salvation” looks and said that he would give the form to his assistant to be updated in their database. My husband was very proud of me even though he is not pagan, he was proud that I stood up for my beliefs and myself.

 

As we expected he left not too many days after that. He was gone for months. As I expected, the news of my change of religion status spread through the unit like wildfire. There were the people who quietly avoided me, and those who made comments thinking I did not hear them, and then there were a few that just pat me on the back and whispered, “you are not alone.” I had always wondered how the news officially leaked out that I was pagan. I had always assumed that the chaplain’s assistant might have leaked it. Surely, a man of God who is sworn not to disclose things of this matter would not have said anything. Right? Well after months, my husband returned and told me a story that answered my question of “who spread my business to everyone?” Before he had left, he had asked me to explain in more detail about my beliefs but time was not our friend. So I bought him the “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft” and told him to read it when he had the chance while he was overseas. I assured him that I had already read the book and that is was very simple to understand and not too far off of my basic beliefs, at least it would give him a basis of understanding. He agreed to read it while he was away.

 

While he was “in the sandbox,” he would sneak in time to discreetly read the book when he had a chance. One afternoon in the mess hall the chaplain’s assistant walked by him and noticed the book. He turned around and sat next to my husband as he scrambled to hide the book. The chaplain’s assistant laughed quietly and said “don’t worry man, it is alright.” My husband scrambled for a good excuse and the assistant stopped him cold. He told him that it was all right, that he knew because he was the one who filed my notification form. He then told my husband that he had something to show him, he pulled out his dog tags and attached to them was a pentagram and his tags read “other.” The two of them talked for hours and he answered any questions my husband had. When my husband came home, he told me the story and told me that he understood why I had found solace in Wicca and that he would support me in following my own path and raising our child with a sense of paganism in general. In that instant, I finally started to feel comfortable in coming out of the broom closet! After that point, I started really living my life as a proud pagan and I sought out as many people in the community as possible. When my husband was assigned to an overseas tour for a year, I moved “back home” where I knew there was a large pagan community. Now, I live my life for others, trying to make a difference in the community for others like me.

 

Do you know what is really sad? That chaplain’s assistant finally had to leave the unit and move to another state and another Army unit because as long as he was under this particular chaplain he did not see any awards or promotions. As you can guess, I pretty much know where the leak must have originated. It was certainly not from my fellow pagan, because he was already a victim of discrimination himself. Ironically, he made it to at unit in Hawaii and wouldn’t you know it? He was promoted and is doing well. It is a shame we had to loose such a good guy here… in my 8 years as a spouse of this unit, I have found more than just one pagan and we really could have used a fellow pagan in the chaplain’s corps! I am also very glad that the chaplain that assumed that my faith was a joke is no longer with us either. The new set of chaplains we have are great! I hope that one day there will be a pagan strong enough to stand up, become a chaplain in the Army, and begin making a real difference on how we are viewed!

This essay was written in response to an author (from the vox) looking for people's reasons for remaining in the broom closet.

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