Remembering Dr Michael Noble

Michael Noble

Michael Noble, PhD. Photo courtesy of Iqbal Singh

In May 2018, Dr Michael Noble passed away. IHRA lost one of our longstanding members, and Australia lost one of our first wave of intersex activists. Michael charted new paths where few previously existed. This was a hard task, and it took a toll.

Dr. Michael Laurence Noble was born in 1959. He lived with difference all his life. In his 30s he was found to have XXY sex chromosomes, and diagnosed with Klinefelter syndrome. He found the standard treatment, testosterone, to be traumatic. This experience led to him becoming an intersex advocate. A later diagnosis with Aspergers helped to explain his difficulty in handling emotions in himself and others. Cognitive issues are now understood to be sometimes associated with XXY.

Michael loved cross-stitching, restoring antique writing boxes, and also bushwalking and gardening. Along with his 30-year meditation practice, these sustained him through his final battle with cancer. Despite being frequently ill and living with depression, he completed a series of degrees, culminating in his PhD, “Nicholas Culpeper and the mystery of the philosopher’s stone: recovering and enhancing subjugated knowledges through historical fiction”, awarded by the University of South Australia in 2017.

In the past ten years, his social circle expanded, and he trained as an ESL tutor and found this deeply rewarding. He always enjoyed making time to help other university students with assignments and research — many have said how he contributed to their study success and outlook on life.

Michael fought for years to create awareness of the intersex community. He had strong views on popular misconceptions regarding intersex people, and he aimed to bring a greater awareness of lived realities and diversity, including the movement’s core human rights issues of bodily autonomy and self-determination. In the early 2000s, he became a public speaker, and he later joined Intersex Human Rights Australia. Michael remained part of the intersex human rights movement up until his death, contributing to policy debates in South Australia and nationally, and affirming the Darlington Statement in early 2018.

He died too young, but he passed in a manner of his own choosing. Michael decided to complete his life without ceremony or a formal funeral. He was celebrated in a gathering at the UniSA Magill Campus on 8 July 2018, with kind permission from the Kaurna People. Michael had said that completing his PhD at Magill was the happiest time of his life, and was delighted to find out that his close friends are planning to publish his PhD thesis posthumously. He will be missed.

Dr Michael Noble - death notice

Dr Noble was the Intersex Consultant and Communications Officer for the 2017 South Australian Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher Gender, Sex, and Sexualities Conference. At the conference, entitled “Gender, Sex and Sexualities Art(i)culations of Violence”, he instigated crucial reforms in the way that the conference approaches notions of gender, sex and sexuality. We are delighted that he is remembered in the Dr Michael Noble Prize for Outstanding Paper at the South Australian Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher Gender, Sex, and Sexualities Conference.

We are delighted that the first Dr Michael Noble Prize for Outstanding Paper has recently been awarded to Angelica Harris Faull.

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Thank you to Louise Niva, Iqbal Singh, Dr Amelia Walker and Simone Stewart for assistance with this tribute to Dr Noble.