Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Laura Dillon became a man then a monk

Goodreads.com; Ashley Wells, CC Liu, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
White privilege? Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism is flexible if an Englishman born a female wants to become a Buddhist novice lama and live in a Himalayan monastery with many Buddhist men (wiki).
Out of the Ordinary (Dr. L. Dillon)
Now available for the first time -- more than half a century after it was written -- is the memoir of English Ms. Laura Maude Dillon, who became Dr. Lawrence Michael Dillon, who became the Tibetan Buddhist trainee-monk Ven. Lobzang Jivaka (1915-1962).

He was a British doctor and then a Buddhist novice (samanera) chiefly known to scholars of sex, gender, and sexuality for her/his pioneering transition from female to male between 1939 and 1949.

The doctor wrote a memoir about the sexual transition, a groundbreaking 1946 book called Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology. Here at last is Dr. Dillon/Ven. Jivaka's extraordinary life story told in her/his own words.

Himalayan Rizong Monastery (Gelugpa Yellow Hat gompa/lamasery), Ladakh, India
Yeah, s/he was a novice monk at Rizong.
Out of the Ordinary: A Life of Gender and Spiritual Transitions captures Dr. Dillon/Ven. Jivaka's various journeys -- to Oxford, into medicine, across the world by ship -- within the major narratives of two gender and religious journeys.

Moving chronologically, the author begins with her childhood in Folkestone, England, where she was raised by her spinster aunts, then tells of his days at Oxford immersed in theology, classics, and rowing.

She recounts her hormonal transition while working as an auto mechanic and fire watcher during World War II and her surgical transition under Sir Harold Gillies while Dillon himself attended medical school.

He details his worldwide travel as a ship's surgeon in the British Merchant Navy with extensive commentary on his interactions with colonial and post-colonial subjects, followed by his "outing" by the British press (and later his abbot) while he was serving aboard The City of Bath.

Guru Rinpoche, Vajrayana Buddhism (John Hill)
Out of the Ordinary is not only a salient record of an early sex transition but also a unique account of religious conversion (Christian to Buddhist) in the mid-20th century.

Dillon/Jivaka chronicles his gradual shift from Anglican Christianity to the esoteric spiritual systems of George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky to Theravada Buddhism and finally Mahayana (Vajrayana) 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 fully ordained monk, his novice ordination was significant:

It made him the first white European man [who was born a woman] to be ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Out of the Ordinary is a landmark publication that sets free a distinct voice from the history of the transgender movement. More

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