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The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution
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The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  243 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
In the 1920s when Laura Dillon felt like a man trapped in a woman's body, there were no words to describe her condition; transsexuals had yet to enter common usage. And there was no known solution to being stuck between the sexes. Laura Dillon did all she could on her own: she cut her hair, dressed in men's clothing, bound her breasts with a belt. But in a desperate bid to ...more
Hardcover, 215 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30)
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Joanie Sompayrac
Jun 02, 2015 Joanie Sompayrac rated it it was amazing
I bought this book long before Bruce Jenner's transition to Caitlyn Jenner was even a whisper because I have long been fascinated by what constitutes gender v. sex. Having minored in psychology in college, I have long believed that we all live on a gender spectrum. I mean I look back at my childhood when my mom sometimes got really freaked out at my resistance to wearing "girly" clothes. I was a raging tomboy, and I preferred jeans and sports clothes to dresses and halter tops. My sister, on the ...more
Apr 26, 2007 Lewis rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
So this was promising...the story of one of the first FtMs and their weird relationship with one of the first MtFs. However, it was horribly written and not very informative. There are a few good factoids, e.g. a popular medical procedure used to be grafting a goats testicles onto your own for vitality and the whole history of endocrinology is always fascinating. But, I can't believe this got reviewed favorably in the NY Times. Whose daughter is Ms. Kennedy?
Sara Jaye
Dec 08, 2008 Sara Jaye rated it liked it
Shelves: queer-studies
Michael Dillon's life, chronicled in this book, is fascinating, but unfortunately Kennedy does not do it justice. The tone was much more novelistic than biographical ("As the monk's robe swirled around his calves in front of Michael, he wondered if...."), and this paired with her extensive reference to his biography made me wonder if perhaps it might have been more interesting to just read his autobiography itself, for those willing to slog through it and with the proper context. But that hasn't ...more
Aug 21, 2007 Zoe rated it really liked it
Okay, the subtitle made it sound trashy, but I thought it was worth a go. I've always been fascinated by the various journeys trans and intersex people go through. I'm also quite interested in liminality, whether it's in terms of sex or gender or sexuality or various combinations thereof.

Although reading about Michael Dillon's early journey was definitely interesting, particularly the feelings of not quite fitting and the ways he found to try to fit in, what I really found interesting was the wa
Jul 20, 2009 Ty rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to know what happened before David Reimer and Harry Benjamin
Shelves: sexuality
I devoured this book with a speed seldom devoted to reading.

It touches on how Dr. Gillies came to create a flap from skin to create a phallus, it repositions more accurately (even just within a white supremacist account of history, nevermind a larger one) Christine Jorgasen, Harry Benjamin and company who often get "the first" attached to their accomplishments.

I am now on the look out for Liz Hodgkinson's Michael Née Laura (1989), Dillon/Jivaka's Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology (1946)
Awfully short, with a misleading title.

There's no love affair.

The medical revolution doesn't begin for 3 decades.

This book is depressing as hell. The first man to transition medically figures out how to make stuff happen, becomes a doctor, writes a groundbreaking book on gender confirmation and endocrinology, goes crazy (from the intense, constant transphobia he encounters, and goes to India to meditate where he encounters more transphobia.)

Engaging and well written, not dry or boring, but not e
Benn Marine
Mar 01, 2014 Benn Marine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender-studies
Loved this book, hate the subtitle including "love affair", that's not what this book is about, and while the book was a great read that I couldn't put down; the subtitle does exactly what the author writes about tabloids sensationalizing trans folks. The subtitle reminds me of the ever so common experience of someone being an awesome trans ally and being super on it, then "ma'am ing" me at the end of the convo. WTF. The author should have just left the title to "the first man made man." Period. ...more
May 26, 2016 Violante marked it as to-read
Parte del reto, Be an international feminist.
Estoy cansada de leer tantas cosas denigrantes y espantosas, así que me estoy proponiendo leer más autoras feministas y libros más diversos. ¿Como qué? Personajes no-heterosexuales, personajes no-binarios, personajes transgéneros, personajes de color, personajes discapacitados/con una discapacidad, libros body positive, y sobre enfermedades mentales, desórdenes alimenticios. Cualquier género está bien. Por favor, recomendame!

In English
Jul 26, 2007 Laurie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those with an open mind
This book is FASCINATING! It's all about the first transsexuals. Let me tell you, I am so completely engrossed in this book. It's not that long of a book and Pagan Kennedy writes pretty clearly, so all the facts aren't confusing. I do have trouble keeping the dates down. Pagan jumps around a bit, but it works! I'm just bad with dates. What can I say? Anyway, the things you'll learn about tolerance in the world, medicinal advances (let's give people pills without testing the side effects!), femin ...more
Jan 19, 2008 Jess rated it liked it
Recommends it for: a gender studies amateur who knows enough not to take a single work as gospel
Recommended to Jess by: Daphne Gottlieb
I'm looking for more language on this topic. This book isn't really providing much new language because it simplifies, but it's still a fascinating docket on a matter. For every phenomena there is a first occurrence, this is a very well told & sensitive treatment of the first recorded FTM transition using medical science.
Also weaves in stories of other gender characters in the media frenzy in the 40s & 50s. Easy read with fun facts, but not particularly thought-provoking.
Born a female

Transitioned to male with testosterone and penile surgery

Was the doctor on a merchant ship

Went to India to become a monk

No love affair within these pages

Still an interesting story of a man much ahead of his time in a world with much narrower minds than now.

Kennedy's writing is bland but effective but at times a little too "fictiony".

Roberta Cowell was in much need of plastic surgery, her face still very mannish after vagina surgery.
This book was really interesting. Throughout I was struck with the difficulties of using the correct pronouns and currently accepted terminology when writing about one of the first documented trans man who underwent hormone treatment as well as surgery to pass. In the western world, at least, I don't know much about the history of trans people in other areas of the world! An interesting biography of an interesting man.
Oct 19, 2007 Darlene rated it liked it
Although I've really liked Pagan Kennedy's other books, this one was a tough one to get through. The writing was fine, and the topic/history of sex change and gender was interesting, but the story of Michael Dillon was really frustrating for me. It seems like he had every chance to be successful, and aside from his family, most people accepted him, but he had about the most unhappy life that I have ever read about.
Pia Veleno
Mar 02, 2011 Pia Veleno rated it did not like it
Shelves: nfm
As much as this is a topic near and dear to my heart, I couldn't force myself to finish the book. The author jumps around from topic to topic without any clear segways, and the writing is highly unengaging. Despite wanting people to learn and understand more about the transgendered population, I wouldn't recommend this book. There are too many others out there that are much, much more easy to read and understand.
Jul 27, 2007 Elvis rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: trans-interested ppl
I only read half of this book, but it's an easy, swift read that gets ya interested...the characters are definitely memorable and unique! Historically unique, too, since it's about some of the 1st (well, 20th century firsts) trans people who advocated for trans rights and/or gained public notoriety.

Dillon re-makes his entire body, and it's an interesting character study as well as good historical context.

Really easy read! Good for an intro to gender studies college course.
Kind of interesting, but a bit colorless. The source material Kennedy was working from couldn't have been easy - it was contradictory and spotty. I did like learning something about the history of treatments for trans-people, painful as it is. It was mostly about Michael Dillon, a trans-man who managed to stay out of the spotlight and almost out of history.
Jenna Hawkins
Apr 24, 2016 Jenna Hawkins rated it it was amazing
I don't think this story is a five star book for everyone. But for me, it was. I connected on emotions with this story that transcended any literary quibbles I may have had. I wasn't especially taken aback by the writing, but simply the story and the great depths of knowledge I gained about the world's history in sex, gender, and all the misfits.
Dec 03, 2007 Christy rated it it was amazing
An inclusive (as far as I know) history on transsexuals/transgenderism. The voice and angle are great, and the book is very informative. Started reading it for a social work essay, and finished the rest out of interest. Also explains where the term "transgender" came from... and I won't spoil it for you!
Sep 18, 2007 Brittany rated it liked it
Interesting and tragic book about the life of the first transsexual to successfully transition, after surgery, from a woman to a man. I found Laura/ Michael Dillon's story very sad- he really never was able to fit in to society and died penniless in India after his attempts at becoming a monk failed when he made his genetic gender known.
Julian Pecenco
Oct 27, 2011 Julian Pecenco rated it really liked it
An interesting, if not terribly in-depth, biography of not only Michael Dillon, but with mini-biographies of Roberta Cowell, Harold Gilles and other key figures. The most interesting part of the book is the medical history of sexual reassignment treatments. Alas, this too is all to brief. Made for an easy read, but I realize I would have liked more.
Oct 27, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was ok
I wanted to be both fascinated and enlightened. Silly me. I was neither. Numbingly badly written; didn't know whether it wanted to be a story or a set of journal articles. Not much context, hardly any reflection or thoughtfulness at all. Notes & bibliography worthless. No glossary. Almost no photos. Almost no science.
Jul 24, 2008 Kelly rated it really liked it
This book was fascinating. I had read Bohjalian's fictional Trans-sister Radio and Eugenides's fictional Middlesex plus Jennifer Finney Boylan's memoir She's Not There before I read this. This packs a powerful punch. It's not an easy read, but I am VERY GLAD that I read this.
Feb 25, 2012 Ryan rated it really liked it
The book present information for those interested in some of the historical roots of the ftm transgender experience. Some parts are better than others. But it is worth a read to understand the long road transguys have had to walk down to become who they are.
Aug 19, 2007 shay rated it really liked it
i really liked this book. it was an interesting historical take on sex change operations. there was definitely some uneveness to the writing, but the story was really great and held my attention all the way through. definitely a fascinating book.
Jul 18, 2008 Yana rated it it was amazing
Very interesting.
Jan 07, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing
As with everything Pagan writes, this is a bon-bon.
Jun 01, 2008 Erink is currently reading it
The first female to male transsexual in England eventually fled to become a monk in Tibet. What are the odds?
Jul 01, 2011 Zein rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sex-and-gender
A comprehensive narrative of the concepts of sex and gender evolving alongside medicine and vice-versa. Well researched and told.
Aug 31, 2012 David rated it really liked it
This is a great story of some of the first sex change operations. The love affair comment in the title is a little overblown, so don't expect titalation.
Janet O
Feb 02, 2016 Janet O rated it liked it
I liked the story. I would not recommend it.
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  • Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits
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  • Bumbling into Body Hair: A Transsexual's Memoir
  • Transgender Rights
  • Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People
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  • Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender
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Pagan Kennedy is a regular contributor to the New York Times and author of eleven books. A biography titled Black Livingstone made the NewYork Times Notable list and earned Massachusetts Book Award honors. She also has been the recipient of a Barnes and Noble Discover Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a Smithsonian Fellowship for science writing. Visit her online ...more
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