Michael Dillon (1915-1962) – The World’s First Transsexual Man

The World’s First Transsexual Man

Michael Dillon (1915-1962)
Laurence Michael Dillon

Born on the 1st May 1915 in London Laura Maud Dillon, daughter of Robert Dillon of Lismullen, County Meath,  was anatomically a healthy female child.

Her mother died two days later and her father rejected her and sent her with her brother to his three unmarried sisters in Folkestone, England.

In 1925 her father and grandfather died and her eleven-year-old brother became Sir Robert Dillon, eighth baronet.

She was educated at an exclusive girls’ school and at St Anne’s College, Oxford, winning her rowing blue in a women’s crew and graduating in 1938.

She spent her summer holidays with a housekeeper on the family estate in County Meath.
Facial hair and a deep voice confirmed her feelings of being physically and emotionally a man, and she took a job as a garage hand, living in loneliness and anguish for four years.

A Doctor Foss agreed to give her male hormone pills, she had a mastectomy in 1942, and in 1944 she had her birth certificate amended, changing ‘daughter’ to ‘son’ and ‘Laura Maud’ to ‘Laurence Michael’. Sir Robert reacted with disbelief and horror and cut him out of his life. It is believed that Dillon was the first FTM transsexual to use testosterone therapy.

Michael, as he now called himself, entered medical school in Trinity College Dublin in 1945 under his new name.
During the long holidays he had protracted and painful operations at the hospital of the plastic surgeon Sir Harold Gillis to complete the physical changes.

Sir Harold Gillies, internationally renowned as the father of modern plastic surgery, played a pioneering wartime role in Britain developing pedicle flap surgery.

Gillies later performed surgery on the United Kingdom’s first male-to-female transsexual – Roberta Cowell.

What is not so well known is that Sir Harold was also one of the pioneers of sex change surgery.


 Michael Dillon

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In 1945, he and his colleague Ralph Millard carried out the world’s first sex change of a woman into a man on the young aristocrat, Micheal Dillon.

Micheal is also believed to be the first woman to have taken the male hormone testosterone in order to look like a man.
Within months of starting testosterone, he had grown a beard and was living as a man. It was the dramatic transition in his appearance that finally persuaded Gillies to operate.

Michael later showed his amended birth certificate to Debrett’s Peerage, who agreed to change their entry, thus acknowledging his claim to the baronetcy as the next male in line after his childless brother.

The editor assured him that changes in Debrett were automatically followed by Burke’s Peerage. He won his rowing blue, this time as a man, graduated in 1951, and became a ship’s doctor, serving on voyages to Asia, Australia, and America.

Burke’s Peerage failed to change their entry, and the discrepancy with Debrett’s was discovered in 1958 by the Sunday Express, which investigated further and publicised the change of sex.


Michael was devastated at this revelation of a secret he had sedulously concealed, and he fled to Calcutta, then took refuge in a Buddhist monastery at Sarnath, Bengal.

He was ordained a monk of the Tibetan order, taking the name Lobzang Jivaha, and spent his time studying Buddhism and writing.

He gave what money he had to help struggling students.

The hardships of life in primitive conditions, made worse by the meagre vegetarian diet required by Buddhism, took their toll; his health failed, and he died in hospital at Dalhousie, Punjab, on 15 May 1962, aged 47.

Two books by him were published in London in 1962: The Life of Milarepa, about a famous 11th Century Tibetan yogi, and Imji Getsul, an account of life in a Buddhist monastery.