The Michael Dillon LGBT+ Lectures: Launch Event

Event date
Event time
17:30 - 19:00
St Anne's College - Online Event
Event type
Lectures and seminars
Event cost
Free (donation encouraged)
Disabled access?
Booking required

The University of Oxford is proud to announce a flagship new lecture series, The Michael Dillon LGBT+ Lectures, which will be launched at an online event on November 18.

Named after the Oxford alumnus and trans rights campaigner Michael Dillon, the lecture series will help to shape the national and international conversation about LGBT+ issues and will be at the centre of the University of Oxford’s ongoing commitment to its LGBT+ community. Held twice a year, lectures will be given by LGBT+ individuals from professions other than academia who have reached a position of outstanding achievement in their particular field.

Dillon read Classics at the Society of Home Students (now St Anne’s College) between 1934 and 1938, and The Michael Dillon LGBT+ Lectures will be held at St Anne’s College, which is proud to host the lectures in tribute to the courage and determination of its first alumnus.

The University of Oxford hopes to inaugurate the lectures as soon as large in-person gatherings are possible again, and will announce its first Michael Dillon Lecturers in due course.

The lecture series is organised with Frontline AIDS, a charitable organisation that has been on the frontline of the international response to HIV/AIDS for over 20 years. Their Rapid Response Fund, established in collaboration with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, provides life-saving support for LGBT+ people wherever they are most marginalised around the world. 

To mark the creation of this landmark lecture series, the University of Oxford will be hosting an online launch event titled ‘LGBT Rights in a Time of Pandemic’ on Wednesday 18 November at 5.30pm GMT.

A distinguished panel of guests will include:

  • Lord Smith of Finsbury, the first openly gay MP and Cabinet minister;
  • Justice Edwin Cameron, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa hailed by Nelson Mandela as 'one of South Africa’s new heroes';
  • Zing Tsjeng, executive editor of Vice UK, BBC Sounds host, and author of The Forgotten Women book series;
  • CN Lester, classical singer, curator, and author of 'trans like me';
  • Jonathan Cooper OBE, human rights and international law barrister;
  • Juno Roche, writer and trans rights campaigner

On the night, the panel will discuss the formation of The Michael Dillon LGBT+ Lectures, Michael Dillon’s life and legacy, and the status of LGBT+ rights in this time of pandemic.

Introduced by the University of Oxford's Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson and the Principal of St Anne's College Helen King, and chaired by the BBC’s LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte, the launch event will be free and open to all.

Donations to Frontline AIDS are encouraged.

A link to the live online event will be shared with all those registered (via Eventbrite), but can also be accessed via this link.

About Michael Dillon

Michael Dillon was the first person in the UK to undergo hormone treatment and surgery for a female-to-male transition.

Assigned female at birth, Dillon read Classics at the Society of Home Students (now St Anne’s College) between 1934 and 1938. Dillon took up rowing alongside his studies and was elected president of the Oxford University Women’s Boat Club, where, as well as winning the Boat Race and earning a Blue, he successfully campaigned for women to race upstream, side-by side and over a longer distance.

Image of Michael DillonMichael Dillon
Dillon confided in some friends and tutors about his discomfort with expectations that he live as a woman. A letter by Dillon, preserved in his College file, records his enthusiasm about the research of a Dr Zuckerman into the effects of hormone injections on rats. Dillon had met with Zuckerman on the recommendation of the Principal of St Anne’s. After Oxford, Dillon worked as a lab technician and mechanic while beginning an experimental course of testosterone. Before long he was able to pass as male, and by the 1940s he had undergone a double mastectomy and a phalloplasty (becoming the first man to do so).

He then decided to enroll for medical school at Trinity College Dublin. One of Dillon’s Oxford tutors persuaded the University Registrar to alter records to show that he had graduated from the (then) all-male Brasenose College rather than the (then) all-female St Anne’s College, thus facilitating Dillon to go on to compete in rowing for Trinity’s men’s crew.

Whilst working as a physician and despite his best efforts, unwanted attention was drawn to Dillon’s sex change by national newspapers. He responded by seeking out a Buddhist community in India where he changed his name to Lobzang Jivaka. In 1962 he died of an unexplained illness, having been the first Westerner to become a novice in the Theravadin order of the Hinayana school.

His memoir Out of the Ordinary: A Life of Gender and Spiritual Transitions was published in the year of his death.