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A Ceremony for Proclaiming and Affirming Name and Pronouns by Shige Sakurai

A young green plant growing out of a clump of dirt

Shige Sakurai (they/them) wrote this beautiful ceremony for proclaiming and affirming a community member's name and pronouns. They were kind enough to allow us to publish it for use in our congregations below. Please enjoy!
—Jade

Planting The Self, Growing Together
A Ceremony for Proclaiming and Affirming Name and Pronouns

Ceremony Notes

  • Italics indicate editorial notes. Square brackets indicate optional ceremonial text, depending on the context. Parentheses indicate the place to insert the appropriate name/pronouns. The “participant” is the person whose name/pronouns are being proclaimed and celebrated. The “celebrant” is the person officiating the ceremony. The “gathered” refers to all those gathered.
  • This ceremony should be understood as a template or suggested starting place, and you should feel free to adapt as needed. Please work closely with the participant to make the appropriate adaptations.
    • For example, you may or may not wish to focus upon or include explicit mentions about pronouns, or you may wish to provide more explanation about pronouns or how the participant should be referred to. Or, if the person is reaffirming a name that they have been using for a while, the rite might be framed more as a reaffirmation than a declaration/proclamation of one’s name/pronouns.
    • While this ceremony was written with a trans/nonbinary participant in mind, it could also be adapted for someone who has changed their name for reasons unrelated to gender and who wants to proclaim it for oneself—for example, a shift in relationship or family, or reclaiming one’s heritage or personal agency.
    • The ceremony could also be adapted to affirm multiple participants at once, for example as part of an annual service.
    • Some participants may wish to say more, explain their name/pronouns more, provide poetry/music that speaks to their experiences, or utilize phrases or rituals that correspond to their own traditions or that allow them to reclaim power from traditions that have taken it away from them in the past.
  • While there are several sample rituals one could find for proclaiming a new name, this one is meant to be brief, adaptable, and situated specifically to the Unitarian Universalist context through the use of plants and the focus on self determination among beloved community. The idea of the plant is that it is a symbol with both spiritual and humanistic symbolic value, which can cut across cultures and beliefs. Thus, this ceremony is broadly useable in many spiritual or personal contexts (though the reference to lighting/extinguishing a chalice may be most specific to Unitarian Universalism).
    • The participant who is affirming their name/pronouns may bring a plant, perhaps a potted plant. For the symbolism in this ceremony, ideally the plant has roots and requires water.
    • The participant may wish to choose a plant that represents something about their personality, interests, or even their gender or heritage.
    • The plant stands in contrast to cut flowers, which sometimes represent newness and fragility, and are often used to celebrate children in ceremonies. A self naming can be done by an adult or a child of an age to share of their own mind. The roots of the plant represent the autonomy of the individual to name themself. Watering of the plant during the ceremony may represent a pouring in of love and nourishment by the community for that individual.
    • The plant could be donated to a congregation or taken home by the participant as a memento, placed in a garden, or be an indoor plant. If the plant is kept at a place of worship, it may make sense to display alongside the plant the name/pronouns of the participant, as a reminder to the community.

Welcome and Introduction

  • Celebrant: As we light this chalice, we join in this special time together in warmth and support. Let us witness, reflect upon, and affirm our communities in their wholeness, and in recognizing both common humanity and the uniqueness of each individual through the names and pronouns we use to call ourselves and to call upon or indicate others.
  • Celebrant: Our beloved community member has brought a plant today. Let us remember that this plant is a sacred symbol in this moment, and that whatever shall happen with this plant in the future will not in any way diminish the inspiration and affirmation of this moment and the ever-flowing powers of love and care that this ceremony carries.
  • Celebrant: Plants are our siblings. Plants grow and change over time, they make transitions, and they become rooted. Some plants flower or produce fruit. Sometimes regularly. Sometimes only after many years. Some produce pollen, and some do not. Some change drastically over time. Some grow better in one climate versus another. But the vast majority of plants have roots, they live in the earth, they need and create air, they take in water as nourishment, and they require the fire of the sunlight. Like humans, plants are diverse, they are complex, and they change and develop over time. Like us, plants are both deeply individual and interdependent with their environments.
  • Celebrant: Today, let us witness the proclamation of our beloved community member, and the invitation to pour in our love and support.

Rite of Self Naming

  • Participant: I release to the universe the name [and pronouns] by which I have previously been known.
  • Participant: I now declare before you that my name is (name) [and my pronouns are (pronouns)].
  • Celebrant: We hold you in the heart of love.
  • Gathered: We hold you in the heart of love.
  • If desired, brief personal comments or thanks from the participant may be appropriate. The participant may wish to share what kind of plant they brought and what it represents for them.
  • Optionally, add a poem or short reading appropriate to the occasion, perhaps chosen by the participant, and perhaps relating to the heritage, culture, or background of the participant. There might be an additional community member chosen to give the reading/poem.

Community Commitment

  • Celebrant: As a community gathered here today, we now offer our support for (participant name) and (participant pronoun’s) freedom, protection, and well being. We commit ourselves to centering those who have been pushed to the side. We commit to our own learning, and to the correcting of mistakes that can cause harm. (Participant name), we delight in your right to declare your own name [and pronouns], and we commit to respecting this most personal aspect of your selfhood.
  • Celebrant: May it be so.
  • Gathered: May it be so.
  • Celebrant: We now pour in this water to nourish your plant, a symbol of the connection between the community and your individuality, a symbol of our love for your rootedness and our collective opportunity for growth.
  • Pour in the water. This could be done by the celebrant or by a small circle of individuals chosen by the participant for a special role in the ceremony.

Closing

  • Celebrant: May we always uphold the humanity of ourselves and others, and may we cherish the proclamations witnessed today. Even as we extinguish this chalice, may we each hold ourselves and each other accountable, and may we carry this flame, a light of liberation, in our hearts.
  • Optionally, a song or music may be performed or sung, in closing.

About the Authors

Shige Sakurai (they/them)

Shige Sakurai (they/them) is a university administrator and professor, an advocate for social justice, the founder of International Pronouns Day, and the first person in the U.S. to receive an officially nonbinary X-marker driver’s license. They are a trans and queer person of Japanese and U.S.

Jade Sylvan

Jade is a 2nd-year Mdiv candidate at Harvard Divinity School, and is currently a UUA Aspirant. Before pursuing their call to ministry, Jade found fulfillment and success as a writer, producer, performing artist, and teacher. Jade is the author of Kissing Oscar Wilde (2013 Write Bloody Publishing)...

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