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    Forging a New Destiny

    howardWhen I was five years old, I was disappointed when my mother’s best friend Renée announced she was going to wed Tom. I had planned on marrying Renée, a vivacious and outgoing woman. My disappointment turned into giddy pleasure when I realized that it was OK that Tom was now in the picture. I thought I would move in with them and Tom could support me while I hung out with Renée!

    I believe that I was born gay. My interest in marrying a woman was an attempt to follow societal norms. When I became a tad older, my affections turned to Leslie Uggams. While I’ve never been lured by the likes of Liza, Cher or Mariah, this six or seven year old boy was certain that I would somehow meet and marry this 1960’s singing sensation!

    At age 29, I went down on one knee to propose to a wonderful woman. I wasn’t hiding behind a ‘beard,’ but rather was following the script of getting a job, marrying someone of the opposite gender, and finding a house with a white picket fence. The wedding was picture perfect. It included her grandmother making hundreds of knishes for the reception, and my grandmother reciting the age-old blessing over the challah (ceremonial bread).

    I recall in all three instances knowing that I wanted to have a special bond with someone. I knew the proper way to demonstrate that to family, friends and the world was through marriage. And, for whatever reasons, I loved the pomp and ceremony of weddings…the special clothes, the processional and recessional, and all the energy that went into the preparations resulting in such a special occasion.

    It was my early recognition of the importance of weddings, actually of all life cycle rituals, that planted the seed that germinated into my interest in, comfort with and pride in officiating at seminal moments in people’s lives. It is my soul that gets filled by this work, not my wallet. I feel most engaged when I am helping others through life cycle moments, be they filled with tears of joy or tears of sorrow.

    Having the honor of joining a couple in marriage is a delight. Celebrating the arrival of a child brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. The privilege of being with the bereaved as they navigate the difficult waters of a loss touches me deeply and helps me to cherish each and every day that I have on this earth.

    I am glad that I that I’ve developed the skills to lead rituals. I have gained the empathy necessary to lead and support mourners. I have developed the spontaneity to handle the unexpected during weddings. My soft demeanor allows me to calm nervous first-time parents. I am so fortunate and grateful that, through nurturing others, I also nurture myself.

    Being a Ritual Facilitator allows me to witness special moments in other people’s lives. I get a glimpse into their world by hearing their hopes, aspirations and fears. I gain insight into their world through meeting biological and/or chosen family.

    It turns out that I wasn’t destined to forge a life together with a woman. I’m thankful that Renée and Tom are still part of my life. I’m thrilled that my ex-wife and I retain a special bond, even though we’re not meant to be life partners. And if I ever do get to meet Leslie Uggams, I’m going to kiss her hand and exclaim that the seven-year-old me was her biggest fan!

    If I do walk down the aisle one day with the man/love of my life, I will have a special place in my heart for whomever is officiating.

    Howard M Steiermann is an Ordained Ritual Facilitator based in San Francisco. For more information, please visit