Queenslander Kathy Noble has led a remarkable life.
Born Frank Noble in London’s East End in 1934, it took her 66 years, and two marriages, to finally live life in her true identity, as a woman.
Noble’s autobiography, Two Lives: A Transsexual’s Story and the Fight for Recognition, released this month, offers an honest account of the struggles and triumphs of coming to terms with transitioning.
Asked if she feels like she has, in fact, led two lives Noble told the Star Observer she does and she doesn’t.
“There are two ways of looking at it. One of my daughters said … when I was transitioning, she thought of Frank and Kathy as being twins,” Noble said.
“As far as I’m concerned Frank had to kill himself off to become Kathy and for that I’m eternally grateful to him.
“Still, I have all of these male memories and Frank’s memories I use and draw on every day. There’s no way you can erase those memories — good, bad and indifferent — and that’s what the book’s based on.”
Noble said some people still find the notion of changing from male to female difficult to grasp.
“I’ve been asked when I was giving lectures, ‘When did you stop being a man?’, and I said, ‘I’ve never been a man, I’ve been a woman who’s suffered from a long bout of transsexualism’.
“So it’s very difficult to say. I called [the book] Two Lives because I thought it was easier for people to understand and get their head around.
“But you just don’t wake up one morning and say ‘I’m a fella not a woman’, or something like that. It’s there in your brain all the time.”
During Noble’s married life, she cross-dressed in private and kept her thoughts hidden. However, after a bout of illness and years of oppressing her feelings, she confided in her second wife in 1999.
Noble said it was her Cockney humour that kept her sane during her transition.
When talking about being on the receiving end of any outright discrimination, she laughed, ascribing the lack of attention to her build, “I’m 6’1 and built like a barn door”.
“We Cockneys have a perverse sense of humour,” she said.
“We always come up with a laugh, or try to, and people don’t always understand what the hell we’re laughing about.
“I often say to people starting out on this huge journey of change, if you don’t have a sense of humour, go and bloody find one, because if you can’t, you’re not going to go very far without it.”
After her own surgery on the Gold Coast a decade ago, Noble founded Changeling Aspects, a support group for transsexuals.
When the sex-reassignment surgery closed its doors in 2004, the group morphed into an advocacy group and Noble has been vocal ever since, lending her story to help other trans women and lobbying government for change.
Earlier this year, the Queensland Department of Communities selected Noble to represent the state in the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and dedicated her recognition to all trans women.
It’s thought to be the first formal recognition of its kind in Australia, if not the world.
“I was on [ABC Radio last week and the host] asked me a question which was, ‘What would people in society have to do to come to understand you more?’
“My answer was, really to think we are just human beings, like them, who have unfortunately had a quirk of nature affect them, and that is it.”
info: Two Lives: A Transsexual’s Story and the Fight for Recognition is published by Zeus Publications. To buy the book, visit www.changelingaspects.com