Doctoratus in Philosophia

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.

3 thoughts on “Doctoratus in Philosophia

  1. Congratulations!!! You persevered and you should be so proud of yourself!! And you accomplished it all as your authentic self. The whole world wants that!!

    On to a bright future!


  2. One of the things I regret about not ending up in academia is that I will probably never have a proper excuse to wear doctoral robes again. (I have found the occasional excuse to wear the hat — U.C. Berkeley PhDs get a gorgeous royal blue velvet tam which is just barely plausible as a dress-up hat.)

  3. Having the Dr. is lovely for another reason: when a certain sort of person smirks at you and says, “Miss or Mrs?” you can stare right back and say “Doctor.”

    I’ll tell you truthfully, this never gets old.

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