The following is a Transgender Naming Ceremony that I developed with a member of my congregation. There does not seem to be many Transgender naming ceremonies out there in the Unitarian Universalist sphere so we both agreed it would be important to put this one out there for others to use and adapt.
A TRANSGENDER NAMING CEREMONY
Minister: The tradition of naming people is as varied as there are countries. In the US it is typical that a person would be named by their parents at birth and that name would follow the person all the days of their life. But that is not the way it works in many countries around the world and it does not always happen here that way either.
For example my Grandfather was born James Millard but he was always called Millard. His son, a junior, is called Jim. But my Grandfather’s brother, born Frank, was called Jim. My cousin, Robert Craig changed his name to Robert Avery when he was 13 in order to be a junior and then adopted the name Avery. [The celebrant may substitute their own family’s naming story examples.]
Some children are given new Christian names at confirmation and then will go by that name from that point on. Some have names that are only used by the family and their formal name is used only by those outside of the family. Still others adopt a nickname by which they are forever called. Names are not always cast in stone at birth. Some Native American tribes do not name their children until some attribute is discovered about the child. And the name might change again when the child becomes an adult.
And in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures names would change as the person was transformed and embraced their true identity. Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel, Saul became Paul all to indicate a new person in relationship with their god. Today, we are celebrating the adoption of a new name that reflects a truth that has been hidden but is now revealed.
Poem: “how to love a person” by AJ Tigarian[i]
just press your palm to their palm
warm and full of possibility
skip across their soul like
a flat stone flung from the river’s edge
and then sink into them
come to rest amid the silt and debris
wiggle your toes in the particles
of everything they are
you don’t have to do anything different
you don’t have to try harder
you don’t have to re-mold yourself
into something that makes you
somehow less you
and neither do they.
stand beside them
as they meet their true self
let them introduce you to their “me”
as they find it, one bit at a time
or all at once.
gather up their tears, their smiles,
their joys and their discomforts
when they can’t carry them anymore
remind them where they’re going
go along with them, whenever they ask
witness their struggles and triumphs
open your heart and your arms
press your cheek to their cheek
and love them more when the sun rises
than you did when it set on the day before
#211 / #212 We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder/ We are Dancing Sarah’s Circle
[Sing one verse from We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder then one verse from We are Dancing Sarah’s Circle using the same key. In the Unitarian Universalist hymnal Singing the Living Tradition there is a key change between the two songs. In We are Dancing Sarah's Circle, we substituted “sisters, brothers, all” with “We are Dancing On” for two reasons: The first and primary reason is to be inclusive of people of all gender and non-gender identities and second to be parallel with the call in the first song to be climbing on.]
Minister: By what name shall you be known? [ii]
Partner or Family member[s]: The name shall be ________.
______: My name shall be ______.
Minister: May the community respond by repeating—Your name shall be ______.
Minister: Bear this name as a reflection of your true self. Share this name as a reflection of Mercy. Offer this name as a reflection of Justice.
Created and Celebrated in a service led by Rev. Fred L Hammond of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa, AL on 9 March 2014 ©
[i] “how to love a person” © by AJ Tigarian. Printed here with permission. Permission is granted by the author to use this poem in other naming ceremonies with acknowledgement of the author.
[ii] This last section is a wildly loose adaptation from a section of a naming ceremony written by Lutheran priest Nadia Bolz-Weber http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2012/01/liturgical-naming-rite-for-a-transgendered-church-member/ While there is sufficient changes in wording of the final three sentences to stamp my name to it, the origination of the idea is unmistakably the Rev. Nadia Bolz Weber’s. And at Rev. Nadia’s site, credit is given for the naming ceremony there as being adapted from one used by Episcopal Priest Michele Morgan. There is a genealogy of adaptations going on here.