Val Hennessy reviews From a Girl to a Man by Liz Hodgkinson

girltoman‘Prolific journalist and author Liz Hodgkinson’s book is remarkably timely. FROM A GIRL TO A MAN coincides with the current heated debate about transsexuals, a debate fuelled by Germaine Greer’s recent controversial observation that male-to-female sex-change people are a “ghastly travesty” and not real women. Hodgkinson’s sympathetic and moving biography of Michael Dillon (born Laura in 1915), who was to become the world’s first biological female to male man, will open the eyes and minds of those who are unfamiliar with transgenderism. Hodgkinson describes the mental torment and bewilderment that Dillon endured through childhood and adolescence, and later at Oxford. From birth, Dillon wanted to be a boy, felt like a boy and behaved in a boyish way. At Oxford, Dillon – five foot nine, Eton-cropped, huge hands, pipe-smoking and enjoying rowing and boxing lessons – suffered agonies of isolation, ridicule and personal ignorance. Hormones and a double mastectomy came after Oxford and in 1945 Dillon contacted the famous plastic surgeon, Harold Gillies, who was prepared to operate in secret. He had perfected the “tube pedicle technique” in which the patient’s own flesh is grown on his body and transferred elsewhere on the body. Between 1945-1949 Dillon underwent thirteen excruciatingly painful operations. His life thereafter was both extraordinary and tragic. Hodgkinson’s non-sensationalist book reminds us that Dillon’s situation was far from unique. It makes clear how soul-destroying and painful it is for a person to be labelled “a freak” and informs us of the tribulations experienced by those born with indeterminate gender’

Quartet author Val Hennessy reviews From a Girl to a Man: How Laura Became Michael by Liz Hodgkinson. Get your copy of From a Girl to a Man: How Laura Became Michael today!