We know the meaning of "out" from LGBTQ discourse [1].  To be "out" about X is the opposite of being "in the closet" about it, i.e. secretive about X, whatever X is (sexual orientation or whatever).

In the dark past, "coming out" as a Quaker (Friend) could be costly, in terms of reputation, ability to hold on to property and so on, so many kept their convincement in the closet or revealed it only to close others, many of them likewise in the closet.

Nowadays, we suffer a different yet similar phenomenon when it comes to sharing one's Quaker identity.  Many prefer to keep that hidden, not because they're particularly ashamed, or don't want the boss to find out, but because they're suspicious of having anything about their personal identity in a "world readable" context, on the Internet in other words.

At North Pacific Yearly Meeting we experience this phenomenon keenly whenever it rolls around to compile a regional directory of Friends.  The resulting document is not on the Internet and those receiving it are warned in a preamble about the confidentiality of the information, mostly names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. 

One of our meetings refuses to even transmit the raw information electronically for fear of it leaking out, meaning a lot more data entry work for whomever is compiling the directory.

My proposal, as IT Committee clerk, is that we develop a way for Friends who are fully "out" about their being Quakers, to put their names and whatever contact info in an electronic directory which is indeed world readable.  No login credentials will be required to surf the web pages and view the names. 

These are people who don't mind who knows and are willing to risk the consequences.  They want that information to be public.  I think we'll attract more than just a few to this more public listing.

Indeed, I would think that "being a member" of the Religious Society of Friends was precisely such a declaration of personal willingness to be identified as a Quaker.  I'd think anyone who is a member of a Monthly Meeting would automatically consent to having their affiliation with Quakerism broadcast to the world. 

I'd be wrong though, and must be careful to keep our public directory "opt in".  "Unless you explicitly say you're willing to be in the public directory, you will not be."  That should be the rule.

In my own thinking though, I tend to think of the more closeted Friends as less courageous about sharing their Quaker identity and so less like our members of the dark past, who risked imprisonment and loss of privilege.  My profile of such Quakers is they're either shy to the point of paranoid, or simply too lazy to cope with our brave new world.

Yes, the world is a dangerous place and the Internet is chock-o-block with traps and pitfalls for the unsuspecting and wizened veteran alike.  That's why I think "being the Quakers the world needs" -- the topic of our keynote at Annual Session in 2015 -- means being "out" about ones affiliation.  Be an example to others.  Let your light shine.

Stand up and be counted!  Don't hide in the closet!

[1] the acronym has more letters in it when more fully expanded:

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