ONTD Political

Op by unknown doctor was a world first

12:16 pm - 02/05/2013
ONE of the most important episodes in the history of gender re-assignment surgery took place in Bristol during the Second World War say researchers on the LBGT project.

In 1942 a Bristol Royal Infirmary house surgeon carried out an operation on Michael Dillon – christened Laura Dillon – the first procedure of its kind in the world.

Born into an aristocratic family in Dublin in 1915, Dillon said that by the time he was studying at Oxford he was dressing, and behaving, as a male.

"People thought I was a woman. But I wasn't. I was just me," he said later.

Moving to Bristol to work at a neurology lab, Dillon tried to join women's branches of the armed forces when war broke out in 1939, but was turned down.

Instead he worked at a garage, College Motors in Rupert Street, for four years.

It was at this time that a local GP, George Foss, supplied Dillon with testosterone pills to begin his transformation.

He was being treated for the side-effects of these pills at the BRI when he confided in one of the hospital house surgeons.

This doctor's identity is unknown, but he carried out a double mastectomy on Dillon and helped him change his name, and official identity, from Laura to Michael.

While living in Bristol Dillon wrote a book "Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology" which outlines many of the principles by which transsexuals are still treated to this day.

Dillon studied at the Merchant Venturers Technical College in Bristol before going on to medical school at Trinity College, Dublin.

During college vacations, Dillon underwent further procedures with the pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Harold Gillies at a hospital near Basingstoke.

After qualifying as a doctor in 1951, he worked in a Dublin hospital.

Dillon also assisted Roberta Cowell, who had been born male and was Britain's first male-to-female transsexual to have surgery.

Dillon later joined the merchant navy, working as a doctor on various ships and writing poetry in his spare time.

Though he desperately wanted to live a quiet life a national newspaper spotted the anomalies in a Burke's Peerage entry when he inherited his father's baronetcy

Dillon decided to retreat from the world and went to India, gave away all his possessions, and became a Buddhist monk.

He died in poverty 1962 aged just 47.

"Michael Dillon's story is a remarkable tale of courage, and of a pioneering first that Bristol should be proud of" said Cheryl Morgan, co-chair of OutStories.

"Thanks to him, and the kindness of two Bristol doctors, trans people all over the world now have access to medical treatment that changes their lives substantially for the better"

Andy Foyle, also from OutStories, adds,"Michael Dillon's is just one of the fascinating stories that have come to light when we were researching Bristol's LGBT heritage for the Revealing Stories exhibition. This is just one small part of the hidden history of up to a tenth of the city's population, and we hope as many people as possible will come along to M Shed to find out more"


February is LGBT+ hitory month in the UK, as Section 28 was repealed on 7th February 2000. I don't have time to do daily posts, but would people be interested in a general post about queer protests in the UK? (We have abseiling lesbians, come on).

Also today in London is a gathering outside Parliament at 5pm GMT- a vote on the Same Sex Marriage bill is expected at 7 pm. The debate is expected to start a little after noon with an online watchalong on uk_lolitics.
pepsquad 5th-Feb-2013 04:06 pm (UTC)
soooooooooooooo awesome!
redstar826 5th-Feb-2013 04:48 pm (UTC)
We have abseiling lesbians, come on

go on...

I'd be interested in a post about lgbt rights, protests, etc in the UK
romp 5th-Feb-2013 05:46 pm (UTC)
I'm interested.

And does the UK not have abseiling lesbians after all? Even after I bothered to google "abseiling"?
mephisto5 5th-Feb-2013 05:48 pm (UTC)
Yup we had them, as part of a protest 25 odd years or so against section 28 :) Will include newspaper clippings in write up.
alryssa 5th-Feb-2013 09:00 pm (UTC)
...AWESOME. Yes, please. :) I must have been too young to remember this the first time around.
tabaqui 5th-Feb-2013 06:35 pm (UTC)
How very cool. Amazing how there was a doctor with enough empathy and compassion to help him transform.
mephisto5 5th-Feb-2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
People a long time ago often were more tolerent than we think. There was an army officer who was pretty well known to be FtM in Victorian Britain who was well thought of.
tabaqui 5th-Feb-2013 06:49 pm (UTC)
More stuff i did not know. :)

I enjoy Downton Abbey, and the characters knowing and accepting the orientation of another character was very refreshing.
bmh4d0k3n 5th-Feb-2013 07:14 pm (UTC)
Yes, I've been wondering about how realistic that could've been. On one hand, Britain criminalized homosexuality longer than many other nations. On the other hand, there's no reason there couldn't've been enclaves that were pretty accepting. Do we know of any true stories?
mephisto5 5th-Feb-2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
It was criminalised, but afaik, actual prosecutions bar a few high profile cases were only ramped up after the world wars. I think prior to that it was more 'do your duty to society: have a wife and kids, but we've got a fucking empire to run and unless you're high profile we aren't going to bother going after you'.
tabaqui 5th-Feb-2013 07:22 pm (UTC)
I thought what Robert Crawley said about school and boys trying to kiss him/other boys was interesting, as well - the cliche about English schools being a sort of 'hotbed' of m/m experimentation seems to be still going strong.

I'm reminded, too, of the very strong undercurrent of same-sex attraction in 'Brideshead Revisited' and how not a big deal it was.... I dunno. Something to research!
muted_hitokiri 8th-Feb-2013 12:28 pm (UTC)
The way I've always interpreted it (and this is just my amateur opinion, obv), is that England in practice tended to be more open/forgiving of LGBT-type stuff than the US because our big foundation was the class system, rather than morality. We obviously still had the same types of laws, because yeah, Christian society, but in practice as long as people stayed within their classes and acted appropriately in that respect, whatever else they did was almost secondary. Which is kind of the opposite to the US, where Christian morality was all important, and class movements were greatly encouraged.

(Not, btw, saying that either system was better than the other, they both had a few good points and a ton of bad ones, just different.)
tabaqui 8th-Feb-2013 12:56 pm (UTC)
Possibly, yes. It's interesting to think that 'class' outweighed morality so much that 'lower classes' were all but ignored unless they did something disrespectful/out of bounds.

*wanders off to re-read Maurice*
akashasheiress 5th-Feb-2013 09:00 pm (UTC)
We tend to think that the history of rights is one of constant progress, but I'd argue that while we've made a lot legal progress, we've actually regressed in some areas and our narrow-mindedness has simply shifted rather than gone away.
kagehikario 5th-Feb-2013 06:38 pm (UTC)
Wait, in one place it's LGBTetc History month, in another Black History month?


(now come hither, queer black history...)
mephisto5 5th-Feb-2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
Of interest? (Disclaimer, I know very little history)
This page was loaded Apr 21st 2018, 1:12 pm GMT.