Currently viewing the tag: "Coming Out"

I’ve been to dozens of baptisms in my life, but this one was different.

simonella_virus - BaptismI sat in the back of All Saints in Beverly Hills, a lovely little church in an obscenely wealthy part of the world, and I watched babies have water poured over the heads. I watched parents smile as the priest anointed their children’s foreheads with oil in the sign of the cross. Godparents stood by, beaming. Those parts were no different than what would happen at any other baptism.

What was different is how I felt inside.

I felt like this was happening at a crucial moment in my own life. I needed to be here. I needed to be witness to this. And, without a doubt, I needed to stand up and renew my baptismal covenant.

So I stood with the congregation and affirmed that I belonged to God, that I would seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, and that I would look for and seek to share the love of Christ in the world. I said I’d reject the forces of evil, too, and while I’m not really down with that language (still not a dualist) I said it anyway. I said every part of the covenant because it felt like the thing I was supposed to do in that moment.

There’s this unique push and pull going on right now between what I feel like is my will and what feels like something wholly other from my will. I’m hesitant to say that its God’s Will, but I will say that there have been moments in the past several weeks which have lined up in a way as if to say —

Yes. This is where you belong. Open your heart to this. Focus your mind on this. Be transformed by this.

All of those experiences pointed me back to God, and to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

I know that the public response to my recent transition (a word I prefer used over “conversion”) has been softened a bit because I’ve occupied this “middle way” between Christianity and Paganism. I read a number of Pagans who’ve said something to the effect of “we need more people with blended traditions represented in the world.”

Honestly, I’m a little burnt out on being a representative of anything. It was never my intention when I set up this blog to be a spokesperson for all of Pagandom (as if such a thing could even exist!), and it certainly isn’t my intention now to be a representative of Christopaganism, or for all of Christianity for that matter. I can’t shoulder that weight. And I don’t really think that Pagans or Christians need me too. If Paganism has taught me anything it’s that people need to know themselves, and they need to respond honestly and boldly to the callings they experience in their heart. That’s where Divinity is easiest to find. There, and in the hearts of those around us. That’s where we should be looking first; not in the clouds, or in the myths, or in the middle of a perfectly orchestrated ritual (although It’s there, too). We need only look into the hearts of those around us to find the spark of the Divine; to find what Christians call the Christ.

It’s right there. It’s always been just right there.

A friend and well-known Pagan told me “You know, Teo, I think people just want to know if you’re going to be a Carl McColman or a River Higginbotham.”

To that I think, I don’t know what God would have for me in any of this.

I suppose that makes me more like Carl, doesn’t it?

In my heart I know that there is more nuance to the spiritual life than can be represented in a single covenant or contained in a single religion. I know that the promises of faith and devotion we make are necessarily negotiated in each moment of each day after we make them. We have to keep making those same promises again and again. Each new time brings with it a new need to come out to ourselves and to the world. We say,

This is what I am, I think. I’m probably more than this; more than I can even realize. But this is what I am.

So if feeling compelled to reaffirm my Baptism makes me a Christian (and I think some would say that it does, unequivocally) then I guess I’m coming out as a Christian now.

A complicated Christian.

A gay Christian.

A Christian who thinks a lot like his Pagan friends, and who may have more in common with most Pagans than with most Christians.

But a Christian, nonetheless.


Photo by  simonella_virus

It was my first time being fingerprinted and I couldn’t stop giggling.

I wasn’t drunk. I wasn’t being arrested, either. I was in the police station by choice, and the man who was gently rolling my inked fingers across the regulation fingerprint-card was taking it all in stride.

“You know,” I said, “this action, when taken out of its normal context, is totally neutral. It typically has so much stigma attached to it, but it’s really nothing!” (giggle) “This is actually kind of fun!”

I don’t imagine this was a typical conversation for the policeman. I couldn’t help myself, though. I was beginning a process of transformation right there in the police station, my hand being guided by his, and I couldn’t help but be a little giddy.

Once we’d finished, I took the two cards in my ink-stained hands to the front desk, paid the nice lady her $18, and walked out of the station, one step closer to being fully me.

What is he talking about?

I’m changing my name.

For most of you reading this, there will be no need for adjustment. You won’t have to update your RSS feed or your address book. Nothing will change for you. You’ll continue to see my posts on the blog, or my musings on Twitter and Facebook. Everything will continue as it has since you first stumbled upon my writing.

But, for a few of you, and for my friends, my family, my bank, the Post Office, and just about every other institution I’m currently involved with, things are going to be very different.

You see, I’m not changing my name from Teo Bishop to something else; I’m legally changing my name from something else to Teo Bishop.

Simply put, this decision is an outward sign of my personal commitment to my spiritual and religious path. Changing my name is me owning up to the fact that the person I am when I call myself Teo is the person I’ve been at my core for all of my life, and the person who I wish to continue being. It’s not simply a commitment to being a Druid or a Pagan; it’s a commitment to being introspective, pious, inquisitive, passionate, and compassionate. It’s a commitment to nurturing my relationship with the Gods, with the Spirits of the Land, and with my Ancestors.

It’s me coming out as me.

Coming out is a spiritual experience. Whether you’re claiming a new name, being open about your gender identity, telling your family you’re a Pagan, accepting, publicly, that you no longer believe in God, or performing any other act which affirms something true about you that may have been unseen or unknown by others, coming out is willing your life to be different from how it was before. For all the magick workers out there, you recognize the power embedded in this language.

To be called by a new name, in my mind, is not to deny what I’ve been before. It’s simply to reassign my focus; to place the emphasis where I feel it truly belongs. I write these words as a cisgendered man, but I can’t help but wonder if this feeling of aligning one’s outer self with their inner self is an experience that my trans sisters and brothers could speak to.

When coming out, there’s cause to feel giddy–I think–even in front of an unsuspecting police officer. Coming out is worthy of celebration. Every moment we claim possession of our own life, our own identity, our own journey, we channel the power of creation; the power of the Divine. By being true to ourselves, we are honoring the Great Mystery, and we consent to participate in it.

Needless to say, I’m throwing myself a party once the FBI processes my fingerprints and feels satisfied that I’m not a dangerous criminal.

There are many of you reading this who have experienced coming out in one way or another. Some of you are a part of the Alphabet Community (LGBTQIA…), and many of you have come out as Pagan to your friends or family. Some of you might even be on the fence about coming out, and are seeking some words of encouragement or guidance.

I invite all of you to take a few minutes and reflect on what coming out means to you. If you feel comfortable, I encourage you to share your story here in the comment section, and reach out in support and compassion to your fellow commenters. Then, feel free to share this post with anyone who you think might have something to contribute to the conversation.