The Life & Times of Michael Dillon

Michael Dillon, Michael Dillon transgender, phalloplasty

Laurence Michael Dillon, originally named Laura Maud Dillon, was born May 1, 1915, in Folkestone in Kent, England. He was the first transgender man to undergo phalloplasty – the sex reassignment surgery that constructs a penis. Michael had one older brother by the name of Robert Dillon who later became the eighth Baronet of Lismullen in Ireland. Along with his brother, there were his two aunts. His mother died from sepsis only ten days after giving birth to Michael. An undergraduate from Oxford University, Michael went on to take a research job at a laboratory in Gloucestershire.

In 1939, Michael sought treatment from Dr. Foss, a doctor that had begun experimenting with the hormone testosterone in order to treat women that had excessively heavy menstruation bleeding. While Dr. Foss gave Michael testosterone pills, he insisted that he go to a psychiatrist first. This proved to be detrimental to Michael’s peaceful life. The psychiatrist talked of the sessions between the two until the town of Gloucestershire knew and Michael was forced to leave town. He left and became a mechanic in Bristol where the hormones allowed him to pass as a male.

Michael endured hypoglycemia which landed him in the Royal Infirmary twice due to head injuries caused by passing out to low blood sugar. While recovering Michael caught the notice of one of the world’s few plastic surgeons who performed a double mastectomy, gave him a doctor’s note enabling Michael to change his gender on his birth certificate, and put him in touch with Harold Gillies, a plastic surgeon pioneering the reconstruction and building of genitalia for injured soldiers and those with ambiguous genitalia. Dr. Gillies would have performed the phalloplasty immediately, but the influx of wounded from World War II kept him from being able to do so. While Michael waited for Dr. Gillies to be able to see him for the surgery, he went to medical school at Trinity College, Dublin under his new name of Laurence Michael Dillon. A former tutor of Michael’s convinced the registrar to alter the records of Michael’s attendance at St. Anne’s to Brasenose so that questions wouldn’t be raised. When Dr. Gillies was able to operate on Michael, he diagnosed him with hypospadias to keep the fact that Michael was having a sex reassignment surgery from public knowledge.

Later in life, Michael wrote a book – Self: A Study in Endocrinology and Ethics about what would later be known as transsexuality. While he didn’t reveal his own history in the book, it was brought to light when there was a conflict between two genealogical guidebooks. One listed him as male and the other one as female. Fleeing the country to India, Michael worked to become a Buddhist monk, but after achieving this goal, he was forced to leave because his visa expired. He died in Dalhousie, India at the age of 47 due to failing health.

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