Recently Cara Schulz shared her journey in running a political race on the Wild Hunt. She explained how at one point an anonymous person wrote an opinion piece for a newspaper and in the process outed her as a Pagan. This was a flimsy bid to use her beliefs to cause her to lose the race. Fortunately, Cara had a plan in place to address such an eventuality, and she was able to turn the situation to her advantage. She understood that to serve in the position she was running for, she’d need to be transparent about her beliefs and make them into a non-issue. What I really got from her post, however, was something even more important. Cara recognized that to be a leader, what was most important was how she chose to handle situations that could occur. She made a conscious decision to address the situation in such a way that it could be resolved and she could continue her process of running for city council.
In any subculture, you have people who are leaders in the subculture, and then you have people who are both part of the subculture and are leaders within and outside of that subculture. For people who lead across different communities, one of the challenges is how to resolve and address one’s identities in each of those communities in such a way that you can effectively lead. This challenge is addressed in part through being transparent about each of one’s identities, but also through development of strategies as to how to handle the responses people may have to them (much like what Cara details in her own post).
I straddle several different communities. I’m a Pagan, so I’m involved in the Pagan subculture. I’m also a business coach and active in my business community, most of the members of which are not Pagan. I’m out of the closet. A person who does a search on my name will quickly discover my spiritual interests. I’ve already had a few occasions where a person in the business community asked me about my spiritual interests, and I’ve always been prepared. I’ve been open about what I believe, but I’ve also prepared my answers ahead of time, knowing that its better to be able to respond prepared then to speak off the cuff.
If you are in the closet, it’s still important to recognize that you straddle more than one community. You can keep your spirituality under wraps as best as possible, but you never know when someone will out you or you’ll inadvertently out yourself. It’s important to prepare yourself in case such a situation occurs, and at the same time recognize you may not be prepared when you have to explain your beliefs to someone else. Even as someone who is openly Pagan, I still occasionally find it a bit disconcerting to explain my beliefs to a curious non-Pagan. Nonetheless, very few people live in just one community, and as a result we all have to deal with situations where communities inevitably collide.I think that one of the responsibilities any person has is recognizing how they choose to present who they are to the world around them. Yes, I am Pagan, but what does that really mean, and how do I present that to other people? There are many different answers to that question, and you will find that the answer changes depending on the situation. Nonetheless, what shouldn’t change is your recognition that you d have a responsibility for how you present yourself. Think of the situations where you might have to explain your identity as a Pagan. What would you say? How would you present your spirituality? What would you do to provide enough information and at the same time help people move on from the topic (if that’s your goal)?
The reverse also applies. My identity in the business community is also something I present in the Pagan community. It doesn’t bring with it the same tension that occurs in a situation where someone inquires about my beliefs, but it nonetheless is a responsibility I have, specifically in terms of how I represent the interests of the Pagan community in the larger community I am a part of. While I don’t presume to speak for all Pagans, I nonetheless know that Pagans in general may be judged by how I present myself in my other communities. And when I present the business community to the Pagan community, my representation should do credit to those people as well.
We live in multiple communities, multiple subcultures. We need to be prepared for when those communities and subcultures intersect so that we can represent ourselves and our various subcultures in a way that is helpful. The strategy that Cara shared in her post is one that I’d recommend all people apply. Planning for situations where you need to explain what you believe (or anything else for that matter) can make them much easier to navigate.