Dr Michael Laurence Dillon (1915-52) was the first known female-to-male person to be a doctor in the Merchant Navy.
Now there are plans afoot to celebrate him with a blue plaque.
.So far there is no indication that any of these talks will refer to his time at sea, 1952-58.
To my knowledge there are just two women doctors who concealed their identity on ships. Army surgeon James Miranda Steuart Barry (1789-1865) sailed out to postings, but was not a ship’s surgeon. And circa 1927 a US merchant marine doctor was found, on her death, to be female. No one suspected.
Doctor Michael wrote an autobiography in 1962 which was only published in 2017. He’s got a Wikipedia entry and two other biographies too.
- Dr Jay Gilbert, "We Have Always Been Here": Michael Dillon and Transmasculinity in Pre-War Oxford
- Duncan Jones, L.M. Dillon at Oxford, L.M. Dillon at Oxford
At the moment I’m trying to track down Michael’s situation in the shipping industry by speaking to seafarers.
Born Laura Dillon, this ex-Girl Guide and Oxford Blue had been sailing, unsuspected, for six years after pioneering surgical and hormone treatment in the 1940s.
The medical superintendent said he '“still hoped I would stay with the company and would back any arrangements I liked.”’
so ‘Doc Mike’ asked to be discharged from the City of Bath in India. Just after
his 43rd birthday be began a new life and went on to become the first western
Buddhist novice. He died in 1962.
She had been born in 1935 and sailed the year before Michael first sailed. She became famous for her male-to-female transition after 1960, long after she had left the sea.
I have met seafarers who regarded her, and Christine Jorgensen in 1952, as inspirational. By contrast Michael was the focus of very little publicity at the time.