1915 - 1962

"People thought I was a woman. But I wasn't. I was just me."

- Dr. Michael Dillon

Assigned female at birth, Michael Dillon is the first transgender man known to have undergone gender confirmation surgery. Drawn to the Church, he graduated from St. Anne's College in 1938 with a degree in theology. Knowing that women’s opportunities were limited, Dillon obtained a prescription for synthetic testosterone in 1939, underwent chest reconstruction in 1942, and re-registered as Lawrence Michael Dillon on April 14, 1944. While in transition, Dillon wrote the first medico-legal treatise on gender confirmation surgeries, laying the groundwork for what would come to be called "transsexuality." After completing medical school, he served as a ship's surgeon in the Merchant Navy. When the media exposed his transgender identity in 1959, he took refuge in the practice of Buddhism. Before he was to be ordained as a monk he succumbed to an unknown illness in India and died on May 15, 1962. Though contemporary understanding of transgender emergence tends to focus on Christine Jorgensen (because of the international acclaim her transition garnered), Michael Dillon’s transition predated Jorgensen's by a decade. Only Lili Elbe whose – transition began over ten years prior to Dillon's – is commonly believed to have ushured in the era gender confirmation surgery. But Dillon's transition – through thirteen surgeries to complete the phalloplasty between 1945 and 1949 – remains a benchmark in female-to-male transition about which comparatively little has been written. At the intersection of ethics, medicine, biology, religion, philosophy – and "transsexuality" – Michael Dillon's life was an evolving struggle toward physical, intellectual, and spiritual integrity.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Unknown

Gender Identity Transgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Buddhist

Nations Affiliated United Kingdom India Ireland

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Interwar Period (1918-1939)

Field(s) of Contribution




Commemorations & Honors

First White European Man Ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition



Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell