This person is on display in the Contributing Wrap in the People Gallery

(1915 –1962)

Michael was born as Laura Maud Dillon to an aristocratic family in Folkestone, Kent. Losing his mother in childbirth, he and his brother were looked after by their aunts. Michael studied at a girls’ school called St Anne’s College in Oxford. In 1938, Michael met Dr. George Foss who gave him hormone pills to begin his gender reassignment. When rumours spread through his social circles, he moved to Bristol. The hormone treatment made it possible for Michael to pass as male. This was a very painful and lonely time for him. Michael is believed to be the first transgender person to have taken the male hormone testosterone to look like a man and over a period of several years he had a number of surgeries to transform his appearance.

Michael studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, and in 1946 publish the seminal work ‘Self: A Study in Endocrinology and Ethics’. This publication is still acknowledged today for its groundbreaking focus on the wellbeing of transgender patients. He discussed treating what is now medically known as gender identity disorder. In his book he wrote, “Where the mind cannot be made to fit the body, the body should be made to fit, approximately at any rate, to the mind.” He also assisted with the UK’s first male-to-female gender surgery on Roberta Cowell while still a student. In 1951, he graduated and became a ship's doctor, serving on voyages to Asia, Australia, and America.

In 1958, Michael’s secret was revealed to the public when a genealogical guide, listed him as heir to his brother's title under his former name. Faced with intrusion by the press into his personal life, Michael moved to India and converted to Buddhism. He then moved to Tibet to become a novice monk. His health failed and he died in a hospital at Dalhousie, Punjab 1962, aged 47. Michael’s personal experiences have greatly contributed to the modern treatment and care of trans-gender people.

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