by Liz Hodgkinson - £12.99 Quartet Books (2015)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780704373983 | ISBN 10: 070437398x
The story of the world’s first female-to-male transgender revised and reissued...
Born in 1915 into the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, Laura had a difficult start in life. Her mother died when she was 10 days old and she was brought up along with her elder brother Robert by two maiden aunts, Toto and Daisy. The aunts tried to raise her as a genteel young lady who would eventually marry a suitable man with plenty of money, but Laura had other ideas. , and she was also determined to get an education. Against all odds, in 1934 she won a place to St Anne’s College, Oxford – then women-only.
At Oxford, she realised something was seriously wrong and she could never take her place in the world as a woman. She eventually found a sympathetic doctor in Sir Harold Gillies, known as the father of plastic surgery. Always sympathetic to ‘nature’s mistakes’ he performed 13 horrendous operations on Laura over a number of years to turn her into a man. With the change of gender, Michael became heir to the baronetcy of Lismullen. Meanwhile, he decided to train as a doctor at Dublin University. During this time, he met and fell passionately in love with Robert (later Roberta) Cowell – whose own sex-change story became a worldwide media sensation in 1954.
The love was not returned and, rejected by Roberta, Michael became a ship’s doctor for five years. This career was abruptly curtailed when the press discovered that the masculine-looking, bearded Dr Michael Dillon had begun life as a woman. A 15-year-old secret was now out in the open, and Michael was devastated beyond belief. He felt he had no choice but to ‘disappear’, and went to India where he eventually became the first Western man to be ordained a Tibetan monk. This meant another name change, to Lobzang Jivaka. He had always wanted to be a writer and now began to achieve a fair degree of success. He died suddenly in India in May 1962, just a few days after completing a candid autobiography.
(Price & availability last checked: November 2015)