Michael Dillon: The First Female-to-Male Gender-Affirming Surgery
By: Elias Azizi, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Fauzia Haque, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
At birth, all newborns are assigned as male or female based on their reproductive organs. However, for some individuals, their gender assigned at birth does not match their overall identities or the way they truly feel to orient themselves. Certain assigned-male-at-birth individuals may personally identify more as a female and vice versa. When it comes to defining one’s identity, some individuals change their hair, clothing, and voice tone to match the gender they most associate with. Due to gender dysphoria (the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics), some individuals, however, may feel that taking certain medications and having gender-affirming surgeries are needed in order to best define their identity and gender. Based on the Provincial Health Services Authority, gender-affirming surgeries change the sex characteristics of an individual (i.e. changing the reproductive organ[s]). They are usually done in order for one to feel more comfortable about their body and feel more safe in public situations. The first female-to-male (FTM) person who received gender-affirming surgeries is Michael Dillon.
About Michael Dillon
Michael Dillon was born on May 1st, 1915, in England. Dillon was British physician, and practiced medicine throughout his life. Dillon had always identified as masculine, although he was originally born a woman. His feelings about his identity led to the use of testosterone supplements and surgery to appear more like a born-male.
Dillon’s transition from Female to Male
In the beginning of his transition, Michael Dillon started to take testosterone pills. Testosterone is the main sex hormone in males. Based on the Bristol Museums, Dr. George Foss, a doctor who has studied the use of medicinal testosterone, provided the supplements to Dillon. The use of this hormone causes an increase in testosterone levels in the body, and leads to more masculine characteristics like facial hair.
In 1944, Dillon managed to alter information on his birth certificate in order for it to best reflect his gender. The last step in Dillon’s FTM transition was a gender-affirming surgery. According to Historic England, Michael Dillon had genital reconstruction surgery throughout 9 years, starting in 1944. Dillon had a mastectomy at around this time, which reduced the size of his breasts. The major gender-affirming surgery that he had was a phalloplasty.
Phalloplasty surgery is a procedure that reconstructs or creates a penis. Back in the 20th century, phalloplasty surgery was most often used in soldiers who have had injuries. Based on FTMSurgery.net, during a phalloplasty, in order to create a penis, a plastic surgeon creates a tube with abdominal tissue. This tube will become the individual's penis. Dr. Harold Gillies was the plastic surgeon who performed the phalloplasty surgery on Dillon. Back then, plastic surgery was already quite rare, but Dillon’s gender-affirming surgery was the first of its kind.
Dillon’s later life
Shortly after having the phalloplasty, Dillon decided to travel and live in India. In India, he started to study Buddhism. He also changed his name to Lobzang Jivaka. Throughout his time in India, Dillon published several books that all discuss the topic of Buddhism. According to FTMSurgery.net, one of the books he published was The Life of Milarepa, a text about an acclaimed 11th century yogi. In 1962, Dillon’s health started to decline rapidly, and he passed away at the age of 47.
Michael Dillon was the first FTM to receive gender-affirming surgeries. Assigned female at birth, Dillon always identified as a male and decided that gender-affirming surgeries, like a phalloplasty, will help him establish his identity. Dillon started his FTM transition by taking testosterone pills to develop more masculine features. He also had a double mastectomy in order to reduce the size of both his breasts. Lastly, he had a phalloplasty, which allowed him to have a penis. Gender-affirming surgeries are not needed by all transgender individuals; some of them feel comfortable without any surgical changes. At birth, all individuals are assumed to be either a boy or a girl at the hospital. If one has very strong thoughts and are certain that they identify as a different gender, one must not let these labels get in their way. One’s gender is part of their identity, so understanding one’s true gender will allow them to establish their identity.