GREAT BRITAIN: A Change of Heir

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Sharp-eyed Britons, poring over copies of Burke's Peerage and Debrett's, noted an odd contradiction in the listing for Sir Robert Dillon, 44, eighth Baronet, of Lismullen in Ireland. Burke's indicated that Sir Robert was heirless, and his nearest blood relative was a spinster sister, Laura Maude Dillon, 43. Debrett's took a rosier view and bold-faced the name of a younger brother, Dr. Laurence Michael Dillon, to signify that he was the heir to the baronetcy.

Debrett's knew a secret. Its editor, C. F. Hankinson, had discovered an amended birth certificate that transformed sister Laura Maude into brother Laurence Michael. Newsmen last week found the doctor himself at Philadelphia, aboard the British freighter, City of Bath, on which he serves as medical officer. Bearded, pipe-smoking Dr. Dillon explained that he was a victim of hypospadias, that he had sensed in his teens he was different from other girls, and that his voice "became deeper than a female's but higher than a male's" when he was 20. From 1945 to 1949 he underwent a series of operations to make him a more complete male. In 1951 Dr. Dillon published "A Study of Endocrinology and Ethics," a medical account of his own case, although he did not identify himself as the patient involved.

Was he the heir to the baronetcy? Of course he was, said Dr. Dillon, "although I did not expect my claim would be revealed until my brother's death." In Ireland Sir Robert said that Laurence might get the title, but little else, because "I can will my estate to whomever I choose." Then, quoting the Dillon ancestral motto, "Whilst I breathe I hope," Sir Robert added: "It is not yet too late for me to have a family." Debrett's Editor Hankinson believes there is no question that Dr. Dillon is the legal heir, announces firmly: "I have always been of the opinion that a person has all rights and privileges of the sex that is, at a given moment, recognized."