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Ceremonies: “Transgender Rite of Passage

Also appropriate as Other Rituals

We come together today to celebrate, honor, hold and support your new life. We recognize the complexity that is gender, while also recognizing the complexity that goes into living a life that openly and honestly challenges the simplicity of our culturally imposed binary gender system. It takes bravery to choose to walk this path, regardless of whether gender is born or chosen.

We remain a culture reactive to fear of the unknown and the different. We continue to see a rise in transphobic hate crimes. These cowardly acts demonstrate the need for greater activism, outreach and education. This also demonstrates the need for a greater community of supportive allies for our transgender, gender queer, intersex and gender non-conforming communities.

This is why we are here today; we are here today in demonstration of our commitment to you. We are here with a promise to educate ourselves about your struggles, to ask the questions we need to ask to better understand and open our minds. We are dedicated to being better allies in our communities, both personally and politically. But most importantly, we are here as your family. We promise to love you and act as part of your support system. We promise to never claim to know what it is like to go through your personal struggles but will always be ready with a hug and a listening ear.

Our commitment is not to simply tolerate you, because tolerance asks nothing of us in return. As Diana Eck explains in her book Encountering God:

Tolerance is a deceptive virtue. I do not wish to belittle tolerance, but simply to recognize that it is not a real response to the challenging facts of difference. Tolerance can enable coexistence, but it is certainly no way to be good neighbors. In fact, tolerance often stands in the way of engagement. If as a Christian I tolerate my Muslim neighbor, I am not therefore required to understand her, to seek out what she has to say, to hear about her hopes and dreams, to hear what is meant to her when the words ‘In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate’ were whispered into the ear of her newborn child.

Tolerance does not take us far with ideas that challenge our own. For a majority of people, tolerance is simply another expression of privilege. As the philosopher Elizabeth Spelman puts it, “If one is in a position to allow someone else to do something, one is also in a position to keep that person from doing it. To tolerate your speaking is to refrain from exercising the power I have to keep you from speaking. . . . And of course I don’t have to listen to what you have to say. . . . Tolerance is easy if those who are asked to express it needn’t change a whit.”

November 20, 2009 marks the 11th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. This event began in response to the murder of Rita Hester, a strong, out, transgendered woman, who was brutally stabbed in her apartment. She was rushed to the hospital only to be pronounced dead upon arrival. What followed was a blatant misrepresentation of her in both mainstream and queer press. Press referred to Rita by her given male first name and repeatedly used male pronouns. Like many transgender hate crimes, Rita’s murder continues to go on unsolved. Every year, a mounting toll of individuals who have been murdered for being or perceived to be transgender are added to the growing list of victims. Today, in celebration of your transition, we seek to honor these individuals in a different way. We call upon the souls of all those who have been victims of hate crimes to be as ancestors to watch over your path. To be a source of strength and guidance as you move about your life. To act as encouragement that you may walk through life with your head held high.

Just as there is a spectrum of gender which can be experienced, so is there a spectrum of experience for transitioning. We stand with you today as you make the choices that are best for you. We trust you to be the best authority of what is right for you, understanding this includes the right to change your mind at anytime. We promise not to impose any timelines or expectations of outcomes upon your transition. We support you in living a life with integrity and honesty by offering you the space among us to explore what that means for you.

And now, we want to offer you a token of our promises in this sacred bundle. Inside this bundle live the following elements:

Ash of Incense – burnt with intention of our support

Ash of Sage – burnt to cleanse and purify, warding off all evil presences

Purified Water – to bring clarity and honor this new start of your journey

White Willow Bark – signifying our love, facilitating healing of pain, reconciliation with your past and the ability to divine your path.

Vervain – facilitating health and protection along your journey, recognizing you as a sacred being.

Myrrh Gum – our blessing of your journey and to facilitate clarity of path

Dragon’s Blood Resin – to offer protection from the hatred you may face, attract love and repel negativity

Heart-shaped Quartz – facilitating cleansing and clarity, while symbolizing our pure love for you exactly as your are now and however you may become. Its imperfection and flaws empowering you to a journey free from any expectations of perfection.

Evil Eye Stone – facilitating protection from all that seek to harm you through fear and ignorance. May you be strong and proud and free to move about your life with integrity and authenticity.

This is your journey, but you are not alone.

Copyright: The author has given Unitarian Universalist Association member congregations permission to reprint this piece for use in public worship. Any reprints must acknowledge the name of the author.

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Last updated on Monday, March 25, 2013.

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