• Roberta Cowell (L) and Michael Dillon (R) were the first two people to undergo gender reassignment in Britain. (Mirror)Source: Mirror
Don't miss 'The Sex Changes That Made History' at 9:30pm tonight on SBS.
By
SBS Sexuality

9 Oct 2016 - 12:59 PM  UPDATED 9 Oct 2016 - 1:05 PM

Reneé Richards

After being denied from competing in the 1976 U.S Open, Italian Open, and Wimbledon due to her refusal to verify her gender - a rule at the time - Richards sued the United States Tennis Association. She cited discrimination by gender, and in 1977, a judge ruled in her favour.

Judge Alfred M. Ascione called the Barr body test "grossly unfair, discriminatory and inequitable," and called the rule "a violation of her rights," setting a precedent for future cases. Richards went on to compete in the 1979 U.S Open, and became a vocal activist for transgender rights.

Lucy Hicks Anderson

Lucy Hicks Anderson was a transgender activist who fought for marriage and gender equality. After the signing of her second marriage certificate led to fraud and perjury charges being filed against her for collecting money for military spouses, she said: “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman. I have lived, dressed, and acted just what I am: a woman.” She was convicted, but served 10 years on probation rather than jail time.

Jan Morris

Jan Morris is a Welsh historian, travel writer and author who was published under her birth name until she publicly announced her transition in 1972.

Morris - who turned 90 on October 2 - married Elizabeth Tuckniss in 1949. They had five children together and remained together when Morris began to transition in 1964. In order to undergo gender confirmation surgery, Morris travelled to Morocco, as no British doctors would agree to perform the operation unless she divorced her wife. Later, they were forced to do so, but the pair remained together, and entered into a civil partnership in 2008, reuniting them legally.

Michael Dillon

Born in 1915, Laurence Michael Dillon (known as Michael) was the first trans man to undergo phalloplasty. After consulting his doctor about his gender dysphoria in 1939, Dillon was prescribed testosterone.

After a fall caused by hypoglycaemia, Dillon found himself in hospital, where he met one of the only plastic surgeons of the time. The surgeon performed a double mastectomy, gave him a note which enabled him to change his birth certificate, and referred him to Harold Gillies, one of the pioneers of plastic surgery, who had previously reconstructed the genitals of soldiers injured in WW2. Over three years, between 1946 and 1949, Dillon underwent 13 transitional operations. He also studied medicine at Trinity College and became a physician himself, as well as being recognised as a distinguished rower on the men's team. In 1946, his book Self: A Study in Endocrinology and Ethics was published, focusing on people's right to change gender and have the body they desired.

Roberta Cowell

Roberta Cowell was the first British woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery. After reading Michael Dillon's Self, the two became close friends, with Dillon performing an inguinal orchiectomy on her in secret, as the procedure was illegal in the UK at the time. This enabled Cowell to get a gynecologist to say that she was intersex, which in turn allowed her to have her birth certificate changed. Sir Harold Gillies, the same doctor who performed gender confirmation surgeries on Dillon, performed a vaginoplasty on Cowell in 1951, alongside Ralph Millard, an American plastic surgeon.

To learn more about Roberta Cowell and Michael Dillon, tune into The Sex Changes That Made History tonight on SBS, at 9:30pm. Watch the trailer below:

And at 10:30pm, stick around for Gay Girl in Damasus: The Amina Profile, about a well-known Syrian blogger named Amina Arraf, who was kidnapped, only to be exposed as a catfish who'd been fooling everyone, including her online girlfriend Sandra Bagaria.