TransInspiration – Michael Dillon


Born as Laura Dillon in 1916, England; little did future Michael realise the difficulty of discovering his true self. 

To give a brief history lesson; Michael was born to a family highly concerned with their social status, meaning that when word around town got about that Michael was taking testosterone tablets, despite knowing the exact effects, he had to flee to Bristol.

When in hospital being treated for low blood sugar, Michael arranged for a double mastectomy (what we now dub ‘top surgery’), changed his birth certificate and arranged for a meeting with Harold Gillies – a leading plastic surgeon who had reconstructed male genitalia after they had been injured in WWI.

Between 1946 – 1949 Gillies performed at least 13 surgeries on Michael to give him a phalloplasty, these were secretive, illegal and occurred while Michael was attending Medical School at Trinity College, Dublin. 

Michael would later flee to India to escape public attention of his transition by those investigating his inheritance of baronetcy and due to Roberta Cowell’s fame due to her own male to female transition (another revelation to the transgender community).

He joined the Buddhist community and eventually in 1962 he died at the age of 47 due to health problems, although it was also rumored that he took his own life.

Michael Dillon came to be an inspiration of mine when I watched a documentary featuring himself and Roberta Cowell.

His story makes me realise that although the path I’ve chosen is a difficult one, there are also many things I should be grateful for.

We live in a society that is beginning to accept us for who we are, I have never had a personal hateful experience due to my transition.

He had to wait until he was 34 years old to receive surgery that took years to complete, in secret, causing infections that he had to hide from his peers. I realise that many people begin to transition in their later years, but I was able to do this in the beginning of my adulthood. Some people even earlier than myself are able to take hormone blockers to prevent them experiencing a puberty that does not match their gender identity.

Despite the idea of top and bottom surgery feeling scary, they are possible, both privately and through the NHS support system, meaning that if I were to desire that route I could take it with full care and guidance.

It is because of people like Michael Dillon that these surgeries and medications are possible today, providing the best pathways for transgender people.

One man decided that he would become himself despite the majority of society and science telling him that it was impossible.

I think that deserves respect, I know he has mine.

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