Transgender PersonFor many trans and non-binary people, there is major significance to a new name that best reflects their true gender identity. A person’s name is a crucial element to their identification. It’s literally a symbol of one’s identity. In many religious traditions, a name holds power in that it’s used to invoke a deity or expel a nefarious spirit. Even in Judeo-Christian texts, we have multiple accounts of people whose name changes were representative of a change in their lives and destinies such as Abraham (Abram), Israel (Jacob) and Peter (Simon), to “name” a few. Naming ceremonies can be powerful ways of affirming the identities of transgender and non-binary people.

Religious Naming Ceremonies

In various religious traditions, a person’s name may not be considered official until the completion of certain rituals such as christenings, infant baptisms and Jewish naming ceremonies. In Islam, a baby is usually named on the seventh day by both parents jointly. This name usually bears significance in the Islamic faith and a corresponding celebration is held. Adult converts to Islam have also been known to formally change their identification, some famous examples being Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, formerly known as Cassius Clay Jr. and Lou Alcindor respectively. In Hinduism, an elaborate naming ceremony takes place on the 12th day of a newborn’s life. Even in the Wiccan faith, a dedication ritual is held wherein a new adherent takes on a special name that represents a rebirth. Trans and non-binary persons who may or may not be religious may consider taking cues from a religious ritual as a formal celebration of their true identity.

Cultural Go-Bys for Formalizing a New Name

There are cultural rites that may also serve as go-bys for naming ceremonies for genderfluid and transgender people. Many of these traditions are associated with a rite of passage into adulthood. In various Middle American cultures, the fiesta de quince años, or quinceañera, marks a young girl’s transition into womanhood. This formal celebration takes place when the honoree turns 15. In many ways, it’s analogous to the bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah in Jewish cultures or the sweet 16 parties in North America, which are celebrated at the ages of thirteen and sixteen respectively. These traditions don’t necessarily correspond with the age of majority in the countries where they’re practiced, giving non-binary and trans people some non-religious guides for customized naming ceremonies. It should be said here that special care should be taken with respect to borrowing these rites for non-binary or gender-nonconforming individuals.

The Importance of a Naming Ceremony

For many reasons, genderfluid and trans persons may experience certain obstacles to a legal name change. A naming ceremony can serve as public recognition and affirmation of one’s true identity, especially one that includes friends, family and religious and cultural cues. Such ceremonies are sometimes considered an acknowledgment of a person’s entire identity, including their past. Many people bear surnames that are indicative of patronage or family history. For trans, genderfluid and other queer people, a new name is analogous and perhaps even symbolic of choosing a family or village that offers the support and sense of community not experienced with a biological family and blood relatives.

For members of a group that still have many hurdles to overcome when it comes to identity, such as trans and non-binary people, a naming ceremony can be an invaluable way to affirm and uplift. Whether you’re an ordained minister or not, you may be asked to help lead or conceive of a naming ceremony for a transgender or genderfluid loved one. Maybe you’re planning one for yourself. There are religious and cultural traditions that can provide inspiration for a celebration of affirmation of a person’s true gender identity. Check online for scripts, prayers and other ideas.

Category: Society

culture religion tradition

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