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social sciences

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Dillon, Michael (1915-1962)  
page: 1  2  

In India, Dillon poured himself into meditation and study, eking out a living by publishing essays and small volumes under the name Lobzang Jivaka. These writings sought to render complex, esoteric systems and stories accessible to non-specialist, English-speaking audiences: The Life of Milarepa is a condensed biography of twelfth-century Tibetan monk Jetsun Milarepa; Imji Getsul tells the story of Dillon's months at the remote Rizong monastery in Ladakh; and Growing Up into Buddhism seeks to render Buddhism accessible to young people.

A fellow English convert hindered Dillon's own access to his vocation, however: in Kalimpong, Dillon encountered Sangharakshita, a monk of the Theravada tradition, details of whose identity and painful conflict with Dillon are revealed in Pagan Kennedy's The First Man-Made Man.

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Although Dillon embraced Sangharakshita as his mentor, the latter believed that despite his surgeries Dillon remained a woman or a member of a "third sex" and was ineligble for ordination as a monk. Dillon's conflict with Sangharakshita led him to find his way into the Tibetan branch of Buddhism, which had drawn him for several years.

Although he had inherited a fortune from his aunts, Dillon had given away his worldly belongings in the hopes of becoming a monk. Thus, he struggled with poverty and severe malnutrition. Still, he had finally found a home, which he describes in Out of the Ordinary as a milieu in which he could continue to live out the answer he had come to about "the purpose of life in general and of [his] life in particular: to evolve spiritually."

Dillon sought full monastic ordination, but before it could take place, he succumbed to an unknown illness in the hill city of Dalhousie, India on May 15, 1962. He had sent his memoir to his literary agent, John Johnson, just days earlier on his forty-seventh birthday.

Against the wishes of Dillon's brother Robert, who had never accepted Dillon's transition, Johnson sought to publish the memoir, ultimately without success.

Thus in death as in life, Dillon was in transit, striving toward personal transformation and seeking inspiration, as he wrote in Milarepa, with "all those who feel that circumstances weigh against them and that their ends are unattainable."

Cameron Partridge

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Cowell, Roberta. Roberta Cowell's Story. New York: British Book Centre, 1954.

Dillon, Michael. "Out of the Ordinary." Unpublished Manuscript currently in the possession of Andrew Hewson in London. Ca 1962.

_____. Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology. London: William Heinemann, 1946.

Hausman, Bernice. Changing Sex: Transsexualism, Technology, and the Idea of Gender. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995.

Hodgkinson, Liz. Michael Née Laura. London: Columbus Books, 1989.

Jivaka, Lobzang (pseud. of Michael Dillon). Growing Up into Buddhism. Calcutta: Maha Bodhi Society, 1960.

_____. Imji Getsul: An English Buddhist in Rizong Monastery. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962.

_____. The Life of Milarepa, Tibet's Great Yogi. London: John Murray, 1962.

Kennedy, Pagan. "The English Seeker and His Secret Identity: Michael Dillon in India." (May 1, 2008):

_____. The First Man-Made Man: The Story of two Sex-Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth Century Medical Revolution. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Meyerowitz, Joanne. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002.

Prosser, Jay. Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.


    Citation Information
    Author: Partridge, Cameron  
    Entry Title: Dillon, Michael  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated May 14, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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