There are three parts of my identity which I have had to work to realize and assert. I am a gay man. I am a Pagan. I am a Vegan. These are just three of many aspects of my identity, but these are special since they have required swimming against the flow, discovering parts of myself, and finding communities that support who I’ve become.
Inklings of all three started in my early teens. I analyzed and rejected the Catholic faith of my upbringing. I realized that the central story of Christianity – Christ dying to redeem my sins – had no real personal meaning for me. I didn’t feel like I needed someone suffering for sins I never committed. Perhaps I was too privileged in my middle class white American upbringing to feel the need to be “saved”. I certainly didn’t feel the idea of Original Sin and I was too young, too protected and too introverted to have done anything really bad out in the world.
Also, there was the growing realization that the Church disapproved of and even condemned the sexual identity that I knew I had within myself. It took a while for me to figure out that what I felt toward boys was the kind of attraction that most of my peers felt toward the opposite sex, and even longer to figure out how to express that. By my senior year in high school, I was poised to “come out”, and all I needed was the accepting (and less supervised) environment of college to push me over the edge.
In January of my Junior year of high school, I stopped eating meat. I was influenced by statements I had heard from some of my pop music heroes at the time – Annie Lennox, Howard Jones, The Smiths, and even Madonna. It empowered me to make a choice for myself – to allow my distaste for the very idea of chewing on a dead animal’s flesh to manifest into a change in behavior.
Also during high school, I began to read about the Occult. I came across Starhawk and Margot Adler, whose works resonated. I began reading Tarot cards. The beginnings of my Pagan path were set, even if those books had to be stashed away, out of the sight of my family.
Through college and my early post-college years in Chicago, my developing gay identity took center stage. I was the coordinator of a campus LGB group (awareness of Trans issues was just not really there back then). One of the reasons I moved to Chicago was to enjoy the lively gay-positive scene in Boystown.
My spiritual identity was not much of a priority during these years. I remained mostly vegetarian but ate seafood on and off. It wasn’t really until I was in my late 30’s that I began to revive my progress on both of those issues and connect to my spiritual path and also to make my move toward Veganism.
Today, there’s no one in my life who doesn’t accept my identity as a gay man. My close family is supportive. I have encountered occasional problems with being gay in the workplace over the years, but it has been rare and certainly not recent. My veganism is much the same. People in my life accept it, and although some are still a little puzzled, anyone who knows me at all knows they won’t change my mind or habits by arguing.
My Pagan path is still developing. I feel like I have grown in my own practice and knowledge. I am more and more comfortable with my own spiritual self and I have found people who support and guide me. I am still unsure of how to discuss it with people from other aspects of my life – family, old friends, co-workers. I take it on a case-by-case basis, but there are lots of people in my life who have no clue about this part of me.
I realize that with all of these, visibility promotes acceptance, and I should strive to be honest and visible. It helps others come to terms with their own identities. I am not out to convert anyone, but I am still in a process of becoming visible as the person I am – and that includes being a gay man, a Vegan and a Pagan.