Rainbow on Broughty Ferry Beach
Rainbow over Broughty Ferry

At a recent SICA event, a CPD session on creative writing, I had a chat about naming ceremonies with Elaine Cormack, one of my celebrant colleagues. Of course typically, we tend to think of baby namings in a celebrant context. But as it’s LGBTQ Pride season we were also thinking about trans people and re-naming.

Because adults sometimes change their names as well. For example, in English speaking countries, women have traditionally adopted the surname of their husband. But perhaps after a divorce a woman may wish to reclaim her original name. In Spanish speaking countries, people usually have two surnames – children inherit the surnames of their father and mother. In the past, the paternal surname always came first but it is possible for an adult to reverse this. Then there are people in the entertainment business who often have “stage names”.

And one of the most important modern examples of people changing their name lies in the transgender community. Here the change in name represents a very profound statement about identity. Taking a new name can feel like a public declaration of that identity – and almost a symbolic death of the old name. Indeed trans people will often talk about “deadnaming”, that is, when people use their old name.

It is in these situations that ceremony and ritual can be helpful in transforming a private moment into a public statement, and in including and involving a person’s friends and chosen family. Elaine and I agreed that celebrants could play a role in helping people to devise a ceremony that felt right for them.

I’d love to chat to trans people who might be thinking of holding a naming ceremony. Or who have held one already and would be happy to share their experience for the benefit of others. Or indeed other celebrants who have conducted these ceremonies – here in Scotland or in other countries. I’m keen to learn more and to share knowledge and experience. Feel free to contact me to chat.

Michael Hannah, Dundee June 2024

Posting for Pride – Transgender Naming Ceremonies

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