Out of the Ordinary

By: Michael Dillon/Lobzang Jivaka

Publication Date: 18 November 2021


Now available for the first time in Ireland and the UK – more than half a century after it was written – is the memoir of Michael Dillon/Lobzang Jivaka (1915–62), the Anglo-Irish doctor and Buddhist monastic novice chiefly known to scholars of sex, gender, and sexuality for his pioneering transition from female to male between 1939 and 1949, and for his groundbreaking 1946 book Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology. Here at last is Dillon/Jivaka’s extraordinary life story told in his own words.

Out of the Ordinary captures Dillon/Jivaka’s various journeys – to Oxford, into medicine, across the world by ship – within the major narratives of his gender and religious journeys. Moving chronologically, Dillon/Jivaka was from Lismullin House, County Meath, but spent his childhood in Folkestone, England, where he was raised by spinster aunts, telling of his days at Oxford immersed in theology, classics, and rowing. He recounts his hormonal transition while working as an auto mechanic and fire watcher in Bristol during World War II and describes his surgical transition under Sir Harold Gillies while Dillon himself attended medical school at Trinity College, Dublin (1945-51). He details his travels as a ship’s surgeon in the British Merchant Navy with extensive commentary on his engagement with colonial and postcolonial subjects in Asia, followed by his ‘outing’ by the British press while he served aboard The City of Bath.

Out of the Ordinary is not only a unique record of early gender affirmation but also a compelling account of religious conversion in the mid-twentieth century. Dillon/Jivaka chronicles his gradual shift from Anglican Christianity to the esoteric spiritual systems of George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky, to Theravada and finally Mahayana Buddhism. He concludes his memoir with the contested circumstances of his Buddhist monastic ordination in India and Tibet. Ultimately, while Dillon/Jivaka died before becoming a monk, his novice ordination was significant: it made him the first white European man to be ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

This first-person narrative, written in the early 1960s and first published more than a generation later in the US by Fordham University Press, is both ahead of its time and distinctly of its time and class, with Dillon’s views being sometimes enlightened, sometimes colonial. A Foreword by Susan Stryker from the Fordham University Press edition describes Dillon as ‘a seeker after truth, who traveled wherever his queries led him’. An Afterword, ‘A Mapless Journey’, by London-based literary agent Andrew Hewson – unique to the Lilliput Press edition – traces the typescript memoir’s provenance and preservation prior to its eventual publication. An introductory biographical essay by consultant psychologist Aidan Collins gives an overview of the timeline of this remarkable individual’s history. Out of the Ordinary is a landmark publication that sets free a singular voice from within the history of the transgender movement.


Michael Dillon/Lobzang Jivaka (1915–62) was a physician, a pioneer in undergoing hormone treatment and male gender affirmative surgery, and a Buddhist monastic novice.


Jacob Lau is a Carolina Postdoctoral Fellow through the Program for Faculty Diversity in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cameron Partridge is an Episcopal priest, theologian, scholar of trans and religious studies, and an openly transgender man. He has taught at Harvard University, Harvard Divinity School and Episcopal Divinity School and is currently the rector of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 136 × 216 mm
Publication Date

18 November 2021


Paperback, 256pp

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