The author of this website wishes to thank Danny Enright for the following material.
Congratulations on your decision to honour yourself and celebrate a vital part of who you are as a complete person. We are delighted that you wish to celebrate your coming out with our Unitarian*Universalist community. We look forward to working with you to create a “Coming Out Ceremony” which will celebrate your values, your life and your journey ahead.
This information will provide you with a template for your Coming Out Ceremony to which you will add meaningful content. It provides a suggested structure for your celebration (which can be altered as necessary) and some suggested texts, songs, symbols and actions (which can be chosen, edited, discarded or added to).
The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations. Keep in mind, however, that the goal is not so much to create a unique ceremony as it is to create a ceremony that celebrates your values and your freedom, and that works to sustain and enrich your life with your family, friends and community. The more care taken in choosing the contents of your service, the more it will become yours.
UNITARIAN*UNIVERSALIST FAITH AND QUEER PEOPLE
Our vision is that all Canadian Unitarian*Universalist congregations and organizations concretely reach out to and support communities who may be experiencing oppression based on their gender and/or sexual identities.
— Welcoming Congregation Vision Statement
The Unitarian religion has a 500 year old progressive tradition. The Unitarian movement challenges limiting beliefs, works for social freedom and emancipates the human spirit. Whether it is providing education to girls in strongly patriarchal societies, ending child labour in young capitalist markets or protecting the rights of atheists to religion-free public institutions, Unitarians are united by their conviction to respect the dignity and worth of all humans.
In North America, Unitarian*Universalists have been one of the leading faith groups in advancing homosexual rights, starting in 1970 when a Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly resolution was passed calling for an end to discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals, and calling for the creation of “sex education programs that promoted a healthy attitude towards all forms of sexuality.” Dozens of resolutions have been passed and legal interventions made to support queer rights over the decades, most recently in favour of same sex marriage in Canada. At that time, the President of the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) affirmed the right of everybody to participate fully and equally in the life of our communities by declaring; “Homophobia is against our religion.”
As evidenced by Winnipeg Unitarian minister Rev. Norm Naylor’s attempt to register the same-sex marriage of Richard North and Chris Vogel in 1974, Unitarian Churches have been long-time supporters of the celebration of same-sex relationships. The CUC also promotes the Welcoming Congregation program, which helps congregations wanting to become more inclusive towards LGBT people. Information on the CUC website about LGBTQ Welcoming Congregations
Through ritual, we can take control of the isolation, confusion and fear we may associate with coming out, and instead celebrate this passage out of the closet with power, creativity and love. As Beck and Metrick state, “As we plan and prepare for the ritual event, we are involved in the process of doing versus being done to. This in itself is empowering.”
For your Coming Out Ceremony to be meaningful, you should seek out the relevance to your life by investigating some of your beliefs, motivations and experiences in coming out. Here are some questions to consider:
- How do you believe this ceremony will impact your life now and in the future?
- What memories or feelings do you need to address?
- What images, memories or people are important to you in your coming out process?
- What kind of mood do you want to create?
- How will the participants at this ritual be affected?
In your self-discovery reflection, you may have come upon music, art, symbols, texts, artefacts or other things that are tangible icons of who you were, are and will be. These are important personal touches that can enrich your Coming Out Ceremony. Consider retrieving some of these souvenirs of your life, and work with the Minister or Lay Chaplain to find ways to include them in your celebration. Here are a few examples:
- Music to start the ceremony, or a song everybody can sing.
- A favourite reading from a treasured book
- A small altar where mementos and photographs can be displayed
- Symbols of your past “straight” life
- Symbols to mark your burgeoning new life (favourite toy, magazine advertisement you felt compelled to keep, etc.)
- A heavy coat or covering to throw off or a bright frock to throw on at the key moment in the ceremony
- A personal mask to remove
- Twine to bind the hands (and then unbind at the right moment)
- A blindfold to remove
- Written words to burn in a flame
- Candles that can be lit from a single source and passed from one participant to another
- A ring, bracelet, necklace or other piece of jewellery to commemorate the ceremony
- A gentle bell to mark transitions and moments in the ceremony.
- Elements mentioned in the Symbols of Love section on page 27.
Find a location for your ceremony that moves you. It could be in a special spot outdoors, but have a back-up plan in case of bad weather. Check if you need permission to use your spot (such as a park). Balance your need to be courageous with your need to be safe; find a spot where you won’t have to worry about outside interruptions. We encourage you to be conscious of the accessibility of the site (can Grandma clamber over those rocks?), whether the site is big enough to accommodate everybody, or too big to create the sought after cozy feeling.
Once you have chosen your site, consider creative ways to use the space. The space, along with the components of your ritual will help determine the logistics; how people gather together, how furniture is placed and perhaps even how to make the best use of acoustics.
Some thoughts to consider:
- A circle is a powerful, supportive way to bring people together and to connect with the spirit of the group.
- A central focus for the celebration works well. An “altar” of sorts can be constructed to hold important artefacts and symbols.
- Music and light are almost magical in their ability to create mood. Having the participants partake in the music or lighting can be powerful, when you sing hymns or pass the flame from one candle to another.
- Use motion and actions within your ceremony. Try to make it more than just reading.
- Be creative with your personal attire. Choose something authentic to who you are, and that helps to set a mood. Tuxedo? Bright shirt? Sandals? Goth? Drag?
- How are others dressed? It is formal, casual or costumed?
Consider having music playing before the ceremony to set the mood. How will the ceremony begin?
Walk into the space with a significant song playing. People are standing. Ask everybody to sit.
Stand in the middle of a circle of people, all standing very close together; enveloping you. With the words from the leader: “Let us begin”, the crowd opens up and you are revealed.
As the music fades, move to the focus point, and ask everybody to take their places.
An entourage of festively dressed attendants escort you “down the aisle’.
Among us right now is the spirit of all that is divine. As we bless each other with our presence, so too are we blessing __________ as we witness her/his/their Coming Out as (gay man, lesbian, transgendered, male, female, queer, bisexual, intersexed, etc.). My name is _______________ and I have been asked to help with this coming out ceremony. Let us be fully present as we come to this time of celebration. Let us breathe together silently for a moment to bring ourselves fully here. There are two lasting gifts we can give our loved ones; one is roots, and the other is wings.
Welcome to this ceremony marking an important and pivotal time in _____’s life. I am ____________ and I will help lead us through a Coming Out Ceremony to help us all deepen our connection to one another, as we support and encourage ________ through this wonderful process. Let’s weave this group into community by saying your name and a word about your relationship with _________.
Come into this place which we make holy by our presence.
Come in with all your vulnerabilities and strength, fears and anxieties,
Loves and hopes.
For here you need not hide, nor pretend, nor be anything other than who you are and are called to be.
Come into this place, where we can touch and be touched, heal and be healed, forgive and be forgiven.
Come into this place, where the ordinary is sacred, the human is celebrated, and
compassion is expected.
Come into this place with your self made whole, and shame can’t touch you here.”…
Now let us pause and look around at these beautiful surroundings for a moment, to create for ourselves and this ceremony a sense of Sacred Space which brings meaning to our lives, and substance to our hopes and dreams. (pause for 60 seconds)
Please become comfortable in your bodies, and let your mind be quiet and still. Breathing in, breathing out….
In your mind’s eye, move into a peaceful place, adorned with beauty that is special to you. (pause for 60 seconds)
Let us open our minds and hearts to the place of quiet, to the silent prayer for the healing of pain and the soft, gentle coming of love. (pause for 60 seconds)
Let us bring our spirits together in meditation, prayer and song. I will sing a chant once and then ask you to join in with me. We will continue to sing it five times.
Gathered here in the mystery of the hour,
Gathered here, in one strong body,
Gathered here through the struggle and the power,
Spirit, draw near!
We have come here to celebrate the Coming Out of ____________, potentially the most significant transition in her/his/their life. We are gathered here to deepen this experience as she/he/they steps from one world into another. The chasm can be deep between the worlds, but we can use the power of our affection to build a bridge, offering support. Our goal is to safely and lovingly see ____________ safely to the other side….
We all experience disconnection and feeling scattered. _______________ has been struggling for years with his/her/their identities; man/woman, straight/gay/lesbian/bisexual. The strain of seeming to be one thing, yet knowing in our heart and soul that we are the other is immense. Then, thankfully, we arrive at a time when we say “Enough! I must be whom my soul calls me to be. I will be honest to myself and the world, consequences be damned! ”
The consequences often are a life rich in friendship, freedom and fresh thinking. It’s not always easy, but being our authentic self is life-affirming. If you spend your time worrying about what one person may say, you’ll miss the glorious love, acceptance and encouragement you receive from so many more.
In this process of being authentic, we create ourselves anew; we take the finest of what was, and merge it with the wonders yet to come. We are not becoming somebody else; we are becoming whole. We are here today to participate in the creation of a whole person, __________. Alive, complete and loved.
Not very long ago, the thought of Coming Out as (lesbian, gay, transgendered, bisexual, interesexed, queer, etc.) was virtually unthinkable. Some of us may still be uncomfortable, or confused by the notion. This ceremony is an enlightened and brave first step on a journey of self discovery, for _____________, and for the rest of us as we share in her/his/their awakening of this important part of her/his/their identity. We are here to open our minds and our hearts, and share in a marvellous transition in _____________’s life.
There is only one purpose for all of life, and that is for you and all that lives to experience fullest glory. The wonder of this purpose is that it is never-ending. An ending is a limitation, and God’s purpose is without such a boundary. Should there come a moment in which you experience yourself in your fullest glory, you will in that instant imagine an ever greater glory to fulfill. The more you are, the more you can become, and the more you can become, the more you can yet be. The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation. You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek, therefore, not to find out who you are, seek to determine who you want to be.
— God in “Conversations with God”
A reading by Henri Nouwen.
To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer. It is more than a word of praise or appreciation; it is more than pointing out someone’s talents or good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light. To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “yes” to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: to give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks. A blessing goes beyond the distinction between admiration or condemnation, between virtues or vices, between good deeds or evil deeds. A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls for his or her Belovedness.
Do you, who have known ___________ for many years, seen her/him/them through times of joy and sorrow, now give blessing to her/his/their Coming Out?
If so, please respond, `We do.’
Response: We do.
Coming Out is an important personal journey that is about personal authenticity and freedom. But it also has a wider effect in the lives of relatives and friends, and in community at large. Do you who are gathered here pledge your support to _________ in the ceremony that she/he/they celebrate today?
If so, please respond, `We do.’
Response: We do!
Bless _____________, for she/he/they is a child of the Universe.
Bless his/her/their mind, so that it may be open and free to choose her/his/their self-path.
Bless his/her/their eyes, that they may see beauty.
Bless his/her/their ears to hear the song of freedom.
Bless his/her/their nose to smell the essence.
Bless his/her/their lips to speak words of healing and wisdom.
Bless his/her/their creative centre of his/her/their body from which comes forth new life.
Bless his/her/their feet to walk a path of understanding and self-forgiveness.
Bless ____________ for he/she/they is/are a child of the Universe.
So Be It.
Choose a reading, or more than one. Consider having friends read passages.
From Grimm Tales
Once, on the other side of the mountains, on the edge of the Endless Forest, a boy lived in a cottage with his mother and father, his brothers and sisters. It was winter, the coldest winter the boy had ever experienced, the coldest winter anyone could remember in a land memorable for the coldness of its winters, and there was no firewood in the cottage for the boy. There was firewood for his brothers, who would grow up to be just like their father, and firewood for his sisters, who would grow up to be just like their mother. But for the boy, who would grow up to be like himself and no other, there was none.
One morning the boy woke up before sunrise. The night had been the coldest one yet, and the frost was heavy on his blankets. The boy determined that, rather than spend another such night, he’d go into the forest and get firewood for himself. He dressed and left the cottage while everyone slept, dragging his sled behind him over the snowy fields and under the eaves of the forest. Here everything was frozen and silent, and because the winter had been so hard there wasn’t much wood to be found. The boy ventured deeper into the forest, finding a few twigs here, a pine cone there, a fallen branch further on, and gradually he loaded his sled.
By the time he had enough wood, he was so cold and had wandered so far that he decided to build a fire for himself right where he was. He was brushing the snow away when suddenly the sun, which had risen while he searched, gleamed on something at his feet. The boy saw it was a key, a golden key, and picked it up eagerly. “It’s mine,” he laughed, tossing it into the air and catching it, and the key sparkled and glittered in the sunlight as if it were laughing with him.
After a while it occurred to him that where there was a key, there must be a lock that opened to it. He swept the snow away all around him but, finding nothing, began digging into the ground. Oh, the ground was hard, harder than stone, harder than steel, and the boy had no tools to work with but his hands. It was a long while that he dug, but whenever he got tired or discouraged he pulled the golden key out of his pocket, and let his eyes rest on its promise, and went back to his labour refreshed.
At last he uncovered a small iron chest and pried it away from the grip of the frozen earth. He turned it in his hands, searching for a lock, and at first it seemed there was none. The boy was patient, though, and finally he found one, so small he’d missed it. He fit the key into the lock and began to turn it. And now we must wait for him to unlock his chest completely, and lift its lid, before we learn what its wonderful contents are, and how they changed his life in ways no one could have imagined.
— Peter Cashorali
We are Powerful
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are the child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
From “The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”
There was a race of little creatures who lived at the bottom of a river. Always subject to the river’s relentless current, they survived by grabbing on to stones, twigs, or branches at the river bottom. There they lived, in the mud, at the mercy of the current and passing debris, “for clinging was their way of life and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.” Eventually one of the creatures tired of his life and announced that he was going to let go, because if he didn’t, he would “die of boredom.” Mocking him, but more than likely terrified inside, the others warned him: “Fool! That current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!” But the creature had had enough of his meaningless existence. He let go. Sure enough, at first he was tossed and tumbled and thrown against stones, but eventually the current lifted him up and steadied him. The creature was liberated from his fearful, clinging existence; easily and gracefully he floated downstream, at one with the current, as if he were flying. Eventually, he drifted over another village of creatures who had never seen one of their kind do anything but hold on for dear life at the river bottom. Looking up in awestruck amazement, they called out “See, a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies. See the Messiah, come to save us all!” The creature responded, “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare to let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure!” And then he was swept away, leaving the others to make up elaborate stories about their saviour.
— Richard Bach
Reading: Now I Become Myself
Now I become myself,
it’s taken time,
many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
worn other people’s faces,
run madly, as if time were there,
terribly old, crying a warning….
Now to stand still, to be here,
feel my own weight and density!
the black shadow on the paper is my hand,
the shadow of a word
as thought shapes the shaper
falls heavy on the page,
All fuses now,
falls into place
from wish to action,
word to silence,
my work, my love, my time,
my face gathered into one intense
gesture of growing like a plant…
So all the poem is, can give,
grows into me to become the song,
made so and rooted so by love…
O, in this single hour I live
all of myself and do not move…
— May Sarton
Words of Aspiration
To look out upon the astounding universe with eyes unblinking and a face unblanched; to ignore no truth and fear no fact; to be ready at all times to recast opinion in the crucible of new experience; to build high hopes upon a firm foundation; to forgive without demanding apology; to keep affection in spite of misunderstanding; to set our thought upon the things of value and spend our strength in the fulfilling of noble purposes; to reverence the reverences of others rather than what they revere; to be alert to Nature’s pageantry of beauty, though we dwell amid the city’s clamour; to get the most out of Life and give the most we can; to be sincere, faithful to responsibility, cherishing honour above indulgence and service above gain; to be guided in our conduct by the shining angel of Intelligence and not by the gaunt spectre of Fear; to approach our last hour with the calm of a philosopher and the gentleness of a saint, and to leave the world enriched by a treasury of kindly deeds and a memory of love: this is our Aspiration, this is our Ideal.
— Arthur Wakefield Slaten
Coming Out is Letting Go
Coming out is a profoundly spiritual act. Coming out means letting go — letting go of fear; letting go of limitation; letting go of anything and everything that has held us back, or anything we have been grabbing on to. It’s about rejecting the lies, and embracing the truth, whatever the consequences. Coming out is an act of courage, and an act of love; it means relinquishing our self-protection, casting off the illusion of “security,” and allowing ourselves to be who we are, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks we should be or do. Although it can be easy for others to see when we are not being ourselves, no one but ourselves can tell us who we are. Coming out also means renouncing our futile attempts to control ourselves and our emotions — and all the conditioning to which we have been subjected: that it’s wrong to feel emotions, or enjoy sex, or laugh too loudly, or display affection in public.
Coming out is about letting go of victim consciousness and assuming active responsibility for our lives. It means giving up the self-consciousness that has held us back for way too long. Who cares what anyone thinks of us? What matters is that we become who we are, that we let our true selves come out. In the ultimate sense, coming out is about being ourselves. If that means coming out as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered person, then go for it. If it means coming out as an artist, or a poet, when everyone around you thinks you should go to medical school or law school or trade school, then go for what you really want. It may mean coming out as a spiritual person.
Coming out spiritually is also about letting go. It means rejecting feelings of shame or embarrassment because we are on a conscious spiritual path, whatever that may be. For queer people, it includes and presumes coming out, and all the shedding that entails. It’s about coming out of the quagmire of our lives—freeing ourselves from our neurotic patterns—and emerging as liberated whole beings. It involves emancipating ourselves from the expectations others have of us, and our expectations of them. Coming out spiritually also means “letting go and letting God,” as they say in recovery circles.
It is time for us to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or queer within the spiritual communities we are a part of. It is also time for us to come out as spiritual beings to our gay friends. In both cases, exemplars are sorely needed.
By letting go, trusting that we will not be alone, we release our fearful, white-knuckled hold on our lives. After tumbling and getting thrown and tossed about a bit—and if only we will resist long enough the urge to grab on again, to hold on for dear life to the illusion of safety and security—then the current will lift us up. As we stabilize, pretty soon we are able to glide in unison with the current. We learn how to use its force. But “using it” implies too much separation, because as we use “The Force,” we also give ourselves up to it. We put ourselves in its hands. We trust that it knows where we are going. We stop fearing and resisting the current and become one with it.
— Christian de la Huerta
Adapted from “What We May Become”
We must grow with our universe! It is turning out to be much more marvellous than we had ever dreamed, more beautiful while more complex, fuller of that which we consider good than philosophers of earlier days could dare to expect. Our new directions of thought are filled with meaning for the coming races of humanity, and will lead us into new fields of awareness, new challenges of attainment, and new realizations of human destiny.
There is still far more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in all our philosophies, but we are climbing and nature loses nothing of its wonder as we climb. Beyond the human state stretch apparently unlimited opportunities for further evolution. We have seen the gods and goddesses, the essences of perfection, and we know within our hearts that by following our inner light, learning how to be free in the ever-increasing reaches of our universe, we can become like them.
— George R. Harrison
The Truth Come Out
Now that we make the truth come out we find we have all kinds of ancestors—spiritual forebears—goddesses and gods as you will, stories to retell as they have been told thousands of years. We retell them in making our lives—the making that lies at the root of art, and as we “make love,” at the root of our loving as well. This is our spiritual occasion: that we are a people who define our identities by the fact of love. In calling ourselves gay we say that love is central, and after the shame and guilt, and yes after the anger, love remains a word we can speak unabashed while others cringe at its too-telling power. We are the subjects of the power of love.
I say we “make” the truth and that is the other part of our occasion—we each face this definition that is at first a horror and then a joy. We do this sorcery: We stop the world, say “No, I am not that” (recoil)—look deep into ourselves—and “Yes, I am this” (expand). We make of our oppression a gift of direction. This we each do, must do, to find our route to love. That we are willing to face that unknown urge, fly in the face of that adversity to a home we only feel in our blood is waiting, is the measure of our courage. I say this “coming out” is a deep occasion of the spirit that will not be swayed, of a mind that must know itself through the body. Then at last we’re on our way; then we make our way.
— Aaron Shurin
Sun, Moon, Stars, all you that move in the heavens, hear us!
Into your midst has come a new life.
Make his path smooth, that he may reach the brow of the first hill!
Winds, Clouds, Rain, Mist, all you that move in the air, hear
Into your midst has come a new life.
Make her path smooth, that she may reach the brow of the second hill!
Hills, Valleys, Rivers, Lakes, Trees, Grasses, all you of the earth, hear us!
Into your midst has come a new life.
Make his path smooth, that he may reach the brow of the third hill!
Birds, great and small, that fly in the air,
Animals, great and small, that dwell in the forest,
Insects that creep among the grasses and burrow in the ground, hear us!
Into your midst has come a new life.
Make her path smooth, that she may reach the brow of the fourth hill!
All you of the heavens, all you of the air, all you of the earth, hear us!
Into your midst has come a new life.
Make his path smooth, then shall he travel beyond the four hills!
Aakulujjuusi and Uumarnituq
In Inuit folklore, the first two humans were a male couple, Aakulujjuusi and Uumarnituq. Soon after emerging on the earth, on the island of Igloolik, they began to desire the company of other humans. They realized that they would have to mate if there were to be more humans. They did so, and miraculously, Uumarnituq became pregnant. It was only when he was ready to give birth that Uumarnituq realized that he did not possess a passageway large enough through which the child might pass into the world. Aakulujjuusi chanted some magic words and this spell caused Uumarnituq to transform into a woman. On doing so, he, now she, gave birth to a male infant, from whom the Inuit trace their descent.
From the song “Everything is Possible”
You can be anybody you want to be,
You can love whomever you will
You can travel any country where your heart leads
And know I will love you still
You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around,
You can choose one special one
And the only measure of your words and your deeds
Will be the love you leave behind when you’re done.
There are girls who grow up strong and bold
There are boys quiet and kind
Some race on ahead, some follow behind
Some go in their own way and time
Some women love women, some men love men
Some raise children, some never do
You can dream all the day never reaching the end
Of everything possible for you.
Don’t be rattled by names, by taunts, by games
But seek out spirits true
If you give your friends the best part of yourself
They will give the same back to you.
— Fred Small
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the winds pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
in to the world, determined to
do the only thing you could do
determined to save
the only life you could save.
— Mary Oliver
from The Velveteen Rabbit
“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “ and once you are Real, you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
— Margery Williams
Be awake, everyone, for what we are about to experience is nothing short of a miracle; it is a life-changing transformation. ____________, who until now has been known to the world as a heterosexual/man/woman is now about to change. We are here to experience the liberation of a soul!
We are here to exalt a life and be glad for it. Like a birthday, we are here to say it’s good that you are alive: it’s good that you are walking with us on this earth. Let’s be glad and rejoice.
When you come to the edge of all the light you have,
and must take a step into the darkness of the unknown,
believe that one of two things will happen to you:
either there will be something solid for you to stand on,
or you will be taught how to fly.
— Patrick Overton
We stand at the door, waiting for it to open. Perhaps somebody else will pass through, and we can catch a glimpse of what is on the other side. We’ve imagined dark and fearful things, and bright and wonderful experiences. We knock, but nobody answers, for it is our door, and we are the ones inside. It is time to grab the handle and turn. It is time to open the door and step out — into life.
_____________, at this moment we are formally recognizing something you have known for most of your life. Here, among those who love you, you are expressing aloud an essential part of who you are. Your experiences have created you, just as you now choose to create this experience.
From the moment of your first steps, you have been on a journey of learning and discovery. You are about to step through a portal into a fuller life, and you do it with the affection of those gathered here.
Please repeat after me:
I vow to hold this new life gently in my heart,
I vow to keep my heart open through all doubt, fear, anger and pain.
I vow to open to the truth of each moment.
I vow to be as spacious as the sky, and give myself the space to grow.
With my heart, with a clear mind, and with each breath,
I vow to love, honour and cherish my new life.
I am in awe of the everydayness and specialness of this ceremony. This is just like every other night; there is no pause in the turning of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things as we mark this transition of _______________ from one state to another. Yet the universe will never be the same, and no one here will have quite the same thoughts or experience after this evening. Everybody experiences the beauty of individual life transitions every time they see a caterpillar become a butterfly. It’s marvellous to behold part of creation becoming more clearly who he/she/they is destined to be.
To be said by the transitioner:
One small step for a person, One giant leap for humankind.
One step forward, no steps back.
Every journey begins with a step, and my journey as a gay man/lesbian/man/woman begins right now.
Into the light I step, and love has never felt so good.
With this step, I begin my dance with life… and I’m leading!
To be said by ceremony leader:
It gives me great pleasure to present to you, (new name) ________________________.
The world has experienced the birth of a new soul, and it’s a (boy/girl/person). I present to you ________________.
We are here to abet creation and to witness to it,
To notice each other’s beautiful face and complex nature
So that creation need not play to an empty house.
— Annie Dillard
It’s a moment of celebration, support and love. This is a time for those gathered to welcome the “new” you to the world. Be creative and enjoy. Here are some ideas:
Let us share our expressions of affection with ___________________.
Everyone has a bead that can now be added to a string for you to remember this transition.
- Magic Wand:
Everybody has a magic wand or stick, and touches you and expresses a heart felt wish.
Everybody adds their flowers together to create a bouquet.
A ring is a powerful symbol, and you may wish to have a ring blessed by the group as a reminder to the brave, liberating step you have taken, and the loving support you have
“Everything the “power of the world” does is done in a circle. The sky is round and the earth is round like a ball, and so are the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. Even the seasons form. a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. Life is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.
– Black Elk, OgIala Sioux
- Dreams and Thoughts:
On small pieces of paper, have written positive, loving wishes for the future. Have each participant take a piece of paper, and in turn express the wish and personalize the thought.
- Face or body painting
Use body paint to mark one another’s face or body, and celebrate!
- Puzzle pieces being fit together.
Everybody has a puzzle piece, perhaps with positive attributes or stories from your past. They put their piece into the puzzle, and then final piece is done by you.
- Walk of Angels
Everybody lines up in two rows facing each other, about 3 feet apart. You cross your arms in front of you and close your eyes. Walk slowly down the aisle between your friends, and allow them to guide you and whisper wonderful wishes in your ears.
- Bubbles Blown
Everybody joins in creating a cloud of bubbles to welcome you.
- Champagne / Wine / Sparkling Beverage
Celebrate this great event with a favourite beverage amongst friends. A chance for toasts all around. Speaking of toast…
- Toaster Oven
It’s part of queer folklore that queers are given a toaster oven for converting a certain number of straight people to homosexuality. A fun twist to your Coming Out Ceremony would be to include a toaster oven somehow; either as a gift or as a way to cook up some hors d’oeuvres.
- Signing of Certificate
You may wish to have a certificate to commemorate this event. It would be signed by you, the officiant, and some witnesses.
If so inspired, share your thoughts and feelings with your guests, or permit your guests to do the same with you.
We are on the other side, where millions of our tribe have gone before us. Every journey is unique, every soul is special. Yet together all queer people share one story; one destiny. Today, ______________, along with this community of family, friends and allies, you have changed thought into action, fear into joy, and love into a path leading to your destiny. Take the strength given to you today, add it to your own courage, and move bravely down your path. Your destiny awaits!
We have all been given a gift here today. Thank you _____________ for letting us share in this transformative moment in your life. This is the first step in your journey, but go knowing that hurts can heal, that broken pieces can be mended seamlessly together and that love is contagious… so go forth and spread the love you have lived here today.
We have laid the foundation for a wonderful future, for you, for all of us, and for the world. Let us use the power of our convictions to change ourselves, and in doing so, transform the world.
As Edward Everette Hale wrote:
I am only one
But still I am one
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
We have seen the light within each other today, and made it brighter and stronger for one another. As Albert Schweitzer wrote: At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
The great sea has set me in motion,
Set me adrift,
Moving me like a weed in a river
The sky and the strong wind
Have moved the spirit inside me
Till I am carried away
Trembling with joy.
— Inuit Shaman Uvavnuk
Go out into the highways and by-ways.
Give the people something of your new vision.
You may possess a small light,
But uncover it, let it shine,
Use it in order to bring more light and understanding
To the hearts and minds of men and women.
Give them hope and courage.
Give them kindness and love.
I thank you God for most this amazing day;
For the leaping greenly spirits of trees
And a blue true dream of sky,
and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes
(I who have died am alive again today,
And this is the sun’s birthday, this is the birth day of life and of love and wings;
And of the gay great happening illimitably earth.)
How should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any – lifted from the no of all nothing – human merely being doubt unimaginable You?
Now the ears of my ears awake and the eyes of my eyes are opened.
— e.e. Cummings
Look at this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all the verities
And realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of beauty;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday
A dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, on this day.
May the love which overcomes all differences,
Which heals all wounds,
which puts to flight all fears,
which reconciles all who are separated,
be in us and among us
now and always.
Go in Peace
May the blessing of God go before you, may her grace and peace abound.
May her spirit live within you, may her love, wrap you round.
May her blessing remain with you always. May you walk on holy ground.
Go in Peace
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.
— adapted from Gaelic Runes
How do you envision your ceremony ending?
- A rousing cheer: “Hip-hip, you’re Gay! Hip-hip, you’re Gay! Hip-hip, you’re Gay!”
- Everybody in the circle holding hands and closing in around you.
- Start up ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and begin to dance and party.
- Special music played as you leave the sacred space. Others can follow you to the reception.
- Beck, Renee and Metrick, Sydney Barbara, The Art of Ritual Toronto, Celestial Arts © 2003
- Unitarian Universalist Association, Singing the Living Tradition, Boston, Beacon Hill Press, © 1993
- Seaburg, Carl, Great Occasions Boston, Skinner House Books © 1998
- Roscoe, Will, Queer Spirits Boston, Beacon Hill Press © 1995
- De la Huerta, Christian, Coming Out Spiritually, New York, Penguin Group, © 1999
- Thompson, Mark, Gay Spirit, New York, Quality Paperback Book Club, © 1987
- Cherry, Kittredge, Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations, London, Westminster John Knox Press, © 1995
- Spangler, David, The Call New York, Riverhead Books, © 1996
- Conner, Randy P.; Sparks, David; Sparks, Mariya, Cassell’s Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Lore London, Cassell, © 1998
- Walsch, Donald Neale and God, Almighty, Conversations with God, New York, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, © 1996
- Inspiration from rituals created by Lay Chaplain Katherine Roback, Lay Chaplain Shoshanna Wiley and Ministerial Candidate Laura Friedman of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver.
Books on Ritual:
- Brenda Knight, “Rituals for Life”, ISBN: 1593371969
Books for Inspiration:
- Catherine Lade, “Recreations: Religion And Spirituality In The Lives Of Queer People”, ISBN: 1895564069
- James L. Empereur, “Spiritual Direction And The Gay Person”, ISBN: 082641107X
- Tara L. Molina, “God’s Other Children; A Spiritual Journey in Gay Life”, ISBN: 1420865358
- Edwin Clark Johnson, Toby Johnson, “Gay Spirituality: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness”, ISBN: 1590210220
- Wesley Thomas, “Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, & Spirituality”, ISBN: 0252066456
- Jim Elledge, “Masquerade: Queer Poetry in America to the End of World War II”, ISBN: 0253216346
- Ramona Faith Oswald, “Lesbian Rites: Symbolic Acts and the Power of Community”, ISBN: 1560233141
Everything Possible by Fred Small
We are a Gentle, Angry People by Holly Near
Rainbow Connection by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams
It’s Not Easy Being Green by Joe Rapposo
I’m Coming Out by Diana Ross
Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat
We are Family by Sister Sledge
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cindi Lauper
Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The world wide web is full of excellent independent artists with transgendered, lesbian, gay or queer music.
Thanks and appreciation for the support and encouragement I received from the Canadian Unitarian Council; its Executive Director Mary Bennett; Unitarian Church of Vancouver Parish Minister Rev. Dr. Steven Epperson; Board President Leslie Kemp and the board; and fellow Lay Chaplains in the Unitarian Church of Vancouver and across the country.
Special acknowledgement to the Canadian Unitarian Council for supporting all of us in offering this valuable service to our community.
This ceremony written and edited by:
Danny Enright, Lay Chaplain, Unitarian Church of Vancouver