Michael Dillon, also known as Lobzang Jivaka, was a twice ordained Buddhist Tibetan novice and a medical physician. He was born May 1, 1915 to Robert Arthur Dillon, an heir to the baronetcy of Lismullen, and his Australian wife, Laura Maud McCliver. Dillon’s mother passed away ten days after giving birth. He was raised with his older brother, Bobby, by their two aunts in Folkestone in Kent, England. Dillon was the first trans-man to undergo phalloplasty.
In his early life, Dillon studied at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, a women’s college. He was athletic and competed in the Women’s Boat Race in 1935 and 1936. He took a job at a research laboratory in Bristol after graduation. While in Bristol, he began to see Dr. George Foss, who introduced him to testosterone pills. After regular usage of the testosterone pills, it was possible for Dillon to pass as male. While in Bristol, he took a job at a garage and it was there that his manager insisted that Dillon identify as “he” to avoid any confusion with the customers.
Dillon suffered from hypoglycemia, and injured his head twice when he passed out from low blood sugar. While being treated at the Royal Infirmary, he was introduced to a famous plastic surgeon. This surgeon supported Dillon’s desire to live as a man and showed his support by performing a double mastectomy, provided him with a doctor’s note that would allow Dillon to change his birth certificate, and putting him in touch with Harold Gillies, a pioneering plastic surgeon who would later perform sex-reassignment surgery on Dillon.
In 1945, Dillon enrolled in medical school at Trinity College, Dublin using his new legal name, Laurence Michael Dillon. He changed some of his transcript information to conceal the fact that he attended an all-women’s college. He joined the men’s rowing team this time. Between the years of 1946 and 1949, Dr. Gillies performed at least thirteen surgeries on Dillon. He avoided forming close relationships with women out of fear that he would be exposed. He completed his medical degree in 1951 and began to practice medicine at Dublin hospital. He then spent six years at sea as a naval surgeon for P&O and the China Navigation Company.
In 1958, details about his gender identity were revealed and he was under scrutiny after the writing of his life in Self. This left Dillon with no other choice but to flee. He decided to go to India and trained under Sangharakshita in Kalimpong, and with the Buddhist community in Sarnath. This experience was life-changing for Dillon. Though he was not allowed full ordination under Sangharakshita because of his gender identity and strict rules around those who were not born male, Dillon, now identified as Sramanera Jivaka, turned to the Tibetan branch of Buddhism. He went to the Rizong Monastery in Ladakh and was reordained a novice monk of the Gelukpa order, and took the name Lobzang Jivaka. His visa expired shortly after his arrival in Ladakh and he was forced to leave. Jivaka passed away in Dalhousie, India at the age of 47.
Jivaka published four books in his lifetime: Self: A Study in Endocrinology and Ethics (1946), as Michael Dillon; Poems of truth (1957), as Michael Dillon; The Life of Milarepa (1962), as Lobzang Jivaka; Imji Getsul (1962), as Lobzang Jivaka; Out of the Ordinary: A Life of Gender and Spiritual Transitions (1962; published 2017) as Michael Dillon/Lobzang Jivaka.
(This biographical statement was written by Vanesa Evers using the following sources:
Kennedy, Pagan. “Becoming Jivaka,” Tricycle. Summer 2007.
Biography Date: January 2022
Trans activism | Buddhist | Author/editor | India | England
“Michael Dillon | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed June 28, 2022, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/michael-dillon.