The Beginning of Wisdom…

| Jul 28, 2008
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ReneHi everyone! It’s nice to be back from hiatus. Life is strange and I have a few stories to share, but I think I’ll start with why my name probably seems unfamiliar. And it has nothing to do with whether you’ve read my earlier essays or not.

You’ve probably grokked by now, this is going to be one of those blogs where I discuss the ins and outs of coming up with a satisfying female name. And anyone who’s known me for any length of time knows how I’ve struggled with that.

When I first came aboard TGF, I was going by “Corinne”, which was probably the best in a long line of losers (that’s your cue Ronnie), but even so, it just wasn’t working out. Maybe because it was too outre. But more than a little because I couldn’t handle the pressure of having to choose for myself.

For starters, I always solicited my friends for opinions. That was mistake number one. None of my polls ever yielded a clear favorite, and if I did happen to favor one, sure enough someone would come forward and voice a strong objection…poisoning my mind against it forever more.

Mistake number two, if you can call it a mistake, was not being able to deal with that much freedom. I could pick anything—really? For someone with an active imagination, that’s too much. Unbridled creativity usually yields junk. I need parameters to focus my energy. And I need a stop button.

Or I needed someone to do it for me.

After the fact, my therapist said it was one of the most amazing things he’d ever seen. In all his years as an advocate and counselor to transsexuals, he never had a client ask her parents for input in the naming process. That my mother answered so quickly, and so definitively, was equally surprising. “It was as if she was hoping you would ask and had been giving her answer thought,” he told me.

I’m not sure why I waited until I had them in the therapist’s office to ask. I think perhaps it was because, a year-and-a-half earlier, my mother had said some things suggesting she might not be open to anything but the name she gave me the day I was born. Apparently, as with so many presumptions I made about my parents, I was just plain wrong. The name she offered up was “Sabrina”. My father was quick to agree. They recollected with some fondness how both my sisters, early on, nearly ended up with that name before events tipped the scales in other directions. It wasn’t a name I would have picked for myself, but for the three of us — four, counting my therapist — it seemed apropos. Almost like it had been saved for me.


Except that’s not really the end. It would be if this were a Disney movie and you wanted the sappiest, most melodramatic ending possible. But this is more like an Asian horror film, where you think it’s over but then there’s a whole other act and it changes things completely.

Anyway, one of the fortunate coincidences of going with “Sabrina” is that my legal first name shares the “S” as its first letter. It only made sense, then, to select a middle name that begins with “R” (well, it makes sense when you realize my legal middle name is “Robert”). But that put me back in the position of having to choose a name, and I was not going to play that game again. Fortunately, my not-so-estranged wife stepped in and suggested “Renee”, and that was a name I would have picked for myself. In fact, for all my pouring over books of baby names and all my endless searches on the social security database and all the other things I did, I can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before that moment. I connected with it immediately.

So “Renee” it is, at least in informal circles. It’s been that way for eight months, and as more and more people adopt it, it feels more and more right to me. It still makes me smile when I hear it.

The internal debate rages over whether, when I do finally legalize the change, I go with Sabrina Renee Knipe on my official documentation, or drop “Sabrina” entirely. I’m rather inclined to keep it, though. I like “Sabrina Renee”; how it came to me suits my sense of drama, and there’s a pleasant symmetry about it that connects me to my earlier self…a self I never wanted to give up completely.


“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”

-Chinese Proverb

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Category: Transgender Opinion


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  1. says:

    Hi Sabrina’
    Great name, great choice, great story. Thanks!

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