Claiming a Name in 2010

How was 2010 for you?

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.

St. Luke's & St. Margaret's Episcopal Church

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.

Pause

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.

The Great Window of St. Luke's & St. Margaret's Church

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!!

— ATM

PS – My sermon from the naming ceremony can be found here, for interested parties, on Cameron’s (and other’s) TransEpiscopal blog.

PPS – Because of the comments about the photos, I’ve added links to several more for anyone who’s interested.  Just click:
SLAM Photo 1, SLAM Photo 2, SLAM Photo 3

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10 Responses to Claiming a Name in 2010

  1. Josh says:

    Good for you!

  2. Cameron says:

    Andy, it was such an honor to lead this celebration and renaming for you in the context of SLAM.

    I also wanted to add, for those interested in the sources for this services, that the bulk of the written ceremony came from a liturgy at the back of Justin Tannis’s (2003) book, _Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry and Communities of Faith_. There was also, in addition to Sarah’s prayer and my adaptation of the prayers of the people, a prayer for a name change from _Changes: Prayers and Services Honoring Rites of Passage_ , published by the Episcopal Church publishing house, Church Publishing (2007). It was a true joy to put the service together both from these sources and from the organic soil of the community and Andy’s contribution to it.

  3. Cameron says:

    PS love your photos of the church– and these are just a small sampling of them!

  4. j says:

    Thank you for sharing the ceremony and wordings. By reading this I was there too and prayed for you. (OK now where is my cake?)

    2010 had three major lifechanging trends for me. One of which was Transsexualism.

    Strangely it began when a lawyer I respected and loved was murdered. To get over the grief, in my spare time, I started to surf any random stuff on the net. Surfing was very soothing and kept away the tears.

    One day I read about Kathoey. To learn more, I googled and ended up on TransGriot. It was as if another world opened. Till that moment, I had a very narrow mainstream view of the word transgender. TransGriot changed all that in the most positive way.

    Through Monica’s blog I got educated about issues our trans sisters face. And learnt the vocabulary. You know… GG, ciswoman, etc. I also googled and watched Calpurnia’s Bad Questions. It’s a brilliant video. I’m not ashamed to admit I had to learn etiquette on the net. Learning etiquette also gave me the much needed confidence to mix within the community.

    TransGriot focuses mainly on transwomen and the ‘trans community’ which I presumed meant a collective of transwomen.
    Then one day I read the word ‘FTM’ on TransGriot. I did not know what it was. So I googled. I ended up on Laura’s Playground. I read picture-bios of successful transmen.

    Frankly I got the kind of shock you’d get if you found out there are 8 continents and not seven. I had no idea FTMs were part of this planet. Or they were part of the trans community.

    And then came the real aaaaahhhh moment.

    In the 1990s I was in a brief relationship. Both of us had just gotten out of messy relationships. And as with any rebound relationship, we were in a hurry. So we got ‘engaged’ without even knowing each other. And then nearly 3 months into the relationship my ex wrote a story about being transsexual and gave it to me to read. At that time I thought it was a work of literary fiction. I shrugged it off. The topic never came up again because shortly after, we broke up; the reason being different personalities. We did not stay in touch.

    Fast forward to 2010 and I realized my ex was a transman. It was a shock.

    My first impulse was to call him. But I soon reconsidered. Too much time has passed. He is now a stranger to me. And I to him.

    I realised if there were signs he was trans, I missed them completely because I was simply not educated about trans issues and what transsexual meant.

    So in 2010 I resolved to educate myself as I don’t want to inadvertently hurt any other transperson.

    I went all out to learn. I joined many trans sites. I read and interacted with transpeople. I made the effort to mix and discuss issue of importance to the community. I watched videos made by transmen. I salute them for their bravery and initiative to make home documentaries and upload them for the world to see.

    I expanded my circle of acquaintances to include crossdressers, and those of dual gender. One of the CDs I met, a very gentle sweet lady, came out to herself, me and our online community as a translady in what was a massive emotional upheaval. She withdrew. Then she sounded suicidal. I used to sleep with my cel phone on just incase she called me. It was tremendously tough to see her suffer. I learnt that to walk the road of self-discovery with a transperson is the closest you get to raising a child. You get to experience their growing pains. Their agony is yours, and you delight in their small victories. What is more is you don’t care about your own pain ; all you care for is them, nurturing them and soothing them. Which makes you just like a parent, frankly.

    I also had the chance to help a man with Kleinfelters. So that was a blessing.

    The sweeter moments of 2010 was finding http://www.americantransman.com . You were one of the three most influential people in my life this year, Sir. And so was this site. It was my anchor in the transworld where it is easy to get swept away by a tsunami of emotions. It was good to have you around through the tougher parts of 2010. So thanks.

    Of course because of you and this site I met a very special transman.

    The other trend of 2010 was laying the foundation for a better career. It was hours and months of really hard work. Very very hard work. Dedication, determination and tremendous self belief.

    Of course many other things happened which made this an emotionally rough year. But it’s all part of my growth so I try not to complain if things get too tough.

    I entered 2011 feeling emotionally vulnerable, teary and self protective. LOL. Hope the year brings me something to smile about.

    BTW nice photos of the church. I come from a city with historic churches. But I like modern architecture. I wish Armani would design a church.

    • Thank you J for the story. Or should I say stories? There’s a lot going on there.

      I think you should contact your ex. Sure, you two are different people now, but you meet new people all the time and don’t shy away from that.

      For those who are wondering, here is a link to the Calpernia Addams video that J mentioned: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOjeZnjKlp0

      The trans community needs strong allies, J, so thank you for your support. I’m not sure that the parent analogy would be the best way to describe a relationship with a trans person as they might resent being viewed as a child, but your heart and your support are in the right place and it sounds like you have been helpful to others. I hope that 2011 brings you a smoother year and success in your career.

      And thank you for the kind comments about this blog.

  5. j says:

    Oh Gosh, sorry! Hope no one is offended. I did not mean to imply all transpeople are children. Hmm…. I have the habit of mothering the whole world. Maybe it’s me.

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