Yesterday I attended the commencements ceremony for my Ph.D. I wore a waistcoat and bowtie.
The Ph.D. robes are red and yellow silk, and very swish. I had a great day, for the most part. My mother and my academic supervisor both attended the ceremony, and I had dinner with them and some other people, and then cocktails. TWO WHOLE COCKTAILS.
There is a downside to attending a formal ceremony in gender-noncomforming formal garb, though. Perhaps more than one.
Ph.D. graduands must line up and process in to the Public Theatre. The line is alphabetical by last name, and a person goes down the line with a clipboard checking that one is in the right place. This exchange occurred when that person — by appearance a woman — got to me:
“Elizabeth Bourke?” said they.
“Yes,” I said.
“Nooooo,” they said.
“Yes,” said I.
“Nooo – Oh,” they said, and wandered off further down the line, causing the person next to me to remark, in commiserating fashion: “I expect you get that a lot.”
During the ceremony itself, when the pro-chancellor went to hand me the parchment, he said, “Mr. Bourke, congratulations -” and the professor sitting next to him pointed out his error, since the name on the paper was Elizabeth – “oh, I’m sorry. Ms. Bourke, congratulations.” Mic’d live to the whole hall.
It would’ve taken a lot more than that to put a damper on my enjoyment of the day, but, y’know, I could’ve lived without either. Although being contradicted when I answered to my own name was extremely irritating.
Still. I am DR. BOURKE now. For good. No one can take it back.