I have heard so many people talk about 2010 as a tough year, a crazy-busy year, a year with a rough economy. Most of all, people seem to have experienced a significant level of intensity in their lives in 2010.
My situation was no different – it was indeed a year of intensity. More on that in a bit.
2010 is being called The Year of the Transsexual – well, at least by the New York Times – and I have to say that for me, 2010 was the year of my transsexualism.
I haven’t blogged about much of my process this year. Because of the intensity of some of these steps I’ve taken, I haven’t been able to write about them. Now, I’d like to fill you in a little bit and would like to specifically focus on my naming ceremony.
Some of the year’s highs and lows were documented in this blog.
Revisiting old passions, developing a friendship with R and then losing him, breaking 10,000 hits on the blog, enjoying Boston Pride, and even starting this blog were all topics discussed here at ATM.
What I didn’t write about were steps that I took as part of a social transition. In the fall, within a two-week period, I celebrated my 50th birthday and I came out at work. I will probably write about it all soon.
Prior to that, in the spring, I legally changed my name. To celebrate the event, we held a naming ceremony at the church I was attending, St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Allston.
Folks, I have to say, the event was moving and amazing. I highly recommend to my trans brothers and sisers and others to claim your name in a similar ceremony if you have the chance.
I printed the invitations and gave them out to a small group of friends, trans and non-trans, who attended along with the congregation. This church was the first place I had been out as my true self in public and the congregation was very accepting.
Rev. Cameron Partridge, priest, trans man and vicar of the church, had written a special liturgy for this event, part of which was also written by a trans woman and layperson in the Episcopal church named Sarah while she was serving in the Army in Iraq. I gave the sermon, which was a great experience.
For the naming part of the ceremony, I was up front next to Cameron when he called everyone in the church to come up and join us. He had the people place their hands on me, and if they couldn’t reach me, they placed their hands on someone near them, so that we were all linked in a web of interconnectedness with me at the center. It was as though we were together in a caring embrace, channeling support and love through each other.
And then, Cameron and everyone there helped me to claim my name.
It had to be one of the most empowering moments I’ve experienced in this process so far. Cameron and Sarah have given me permission to reprint the liturgy here, and I have provided the segment that involves the naming (below, Cameron was the ‘celebrant’ and I was the ‘candidate’):
Celebrant: “For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” We give thanks for all the blessings of this life.
Celebrant: As many of you as have been baptized have clothed yourselves with Christ.
People: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of us are one in Christ Jesus.
The Celebrant then continues:
Celebrant: Hear the promises and commandments of God:
Thus says our God: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. “Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil. Do not let the foreigner joined to God say, ‘God will surely separate me from the people’; and do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.’ For thus says God: to the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
Turning to the person claiming the new name, the Celebrant asks:
Celebrant: How do you respond to God’s calling?
Candidate: I will seek God’s presence in all things.
Celebrant: We are here to affirm the name of Anderson Michael. This name symbolizes all that Anderson is and all that he is becoming, through the grace of God. We honor the name given to him by his parents and acknowledge that the time has come to declare a new name. This name is the culmination of a journey of discovery and, at the same time, its beginning.
Turning to the gathered community
Will you do all in your power to assist Anderson Michael to maintain justice, to do what is right, to honor God and hold fast to God’s covenant?
All: We will.
Celebrant: Will you honor Anderson in name and in spirit as he continues on his path?
All: We will.
Celebrant: Dynamic and holy God, we remember how you changed the names of Abraham and Sarah, as they set out to follow you. We know that you changed the name of Jacob, after a long night of wrestling with you. We now declare publicly and affirm the name you have bestowed upon Anderson Michael.
All lay hands upon Anderson’s head, or upon the shoulders of those around Anderson
Anderson Michael, receive the blessings of God, Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Walk in the Spirit, this day and always, knowing that God has made an everlasting covenant with you that shall never be cut off.
Celebrant: Jesus said, ‘Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
All: Amen. Celebrant: O God, in renaming your servants Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter, and Paul, you gave them new lives and new tasks, new love and new hope. We now hold before you our friend Anderson Michael. Bless him with a new measure of grace as he takes this new name. Write him again in your heart and on your palm. And grant that we all may be worthy to call ourselves Christian, for the sake of your Christ whose name is Love, and in whom, with you and the Spirit we pray. Amen.
After the ceremony, we had a reception, with a soup dinner with homemade bread and cakes and pies for dessert. And there were presents! (For me!) It was a wonderful celebration, like a wedding or christening.
As trans people, there aren’t many ways that we have to celebrate the special moments in the paths we take to become our authentic selves — a naming cermony is one of them. You can experience something similar as well, and such a ceremony doesn’t have to be associated with a church or a religion if that’s not what you prefer. You can hold it in a park or in your apartment or home.
What’s important, if you choose such a ceremony, is that it’s about you and your name, and you are surrounded by people who care about you and support you, and with you, will celebrate yourself, your true self and your true name.
So that is the recap on 2010. I wish you all health, happiness and prosperity for the New Year. Please share your own high points from 2010 in the comments section below if you feel so inclined. It would be great to hear your story.
Happy New Year!!
PS – My sermon from the naming ceremony can be found here, for interested parties, on Cameron’s (and other’s) TransEpiscopal blog.