The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Ms. Doyle

Rachel Doyle is a 56-year-old virgin.

Rachel is also living her first years in life as a woman.

And she is doing so not only as City College’s new student advocate, she’s also a member of Phi Theta Kappa and EOPS and is in the Honors College as a philosophy and ethics major.

Rachel’s amazing story begins in England in 1949. She was born with ambiguous genitalia.

Story continues below advertisement

“They couldn’t tell by looking what I was,” she said.

Her doctors and psychologists, believing she was inter-sexed, offered her mother the option of raising Rachel as a girl or boy. Her mother, who had always wanted a boy, chose to raise Rachel as Roger.

Her doctors began giving her testosterone shots, telling Rachel that they were vitamin shots and attempted to reassign her gender as a male through surgery.

“I was told I had a urogenital problem,” she said. “Surgery left me somewhat deformed.”

Rachel’s situation is not all that unusual and still presents itself for children today. Parents are often asked to choose the sex of their child rather than waiting to see what the child will become.

“It happens quite frequently,” said Steven Leider, student affairs officer in UCLA’s Lesbian Gay Transgender Bisexual resource center. “That’s what inter-sexed people are. They’re people who are born with ambiguous genitalia so you can’t immediately tell which sex they are.”

It happens much more often that the general public thinks. Quite a few celebrities who are inter-sexed people have come out with it. Jamie Lee Curtis is the most well-known one.”

Rachel said she never felt comfortable with girls or boys growing up. She wanted to hang out with the girls because she, like many young girls, thought boys were gross. Her parents, on the other hand, wanted her to play with other boys and worried about her spending too much time with girls.

“I acted the role society wanted me to act, which was male,” she said.

She also struggled with her forming sexuality.

“When I was 10 I thought I was gay, which was a bad thing at the time – it was the 50s and 60s,” she said. “So I hid it.”

When she was almost 16 she joined England’s Royal Air Force as a cadet and later was officially commissioned as an officer at 18. She became a bomber pilot, traveling all over the world, including stops in Malaysia and Borneo. Today she counts 27 countries under her belt.

When she got out of the Royal Air Force Rachel found she had an interest in horses and became certified with the British Horse Society to be a horse trainer. She later moved to California and worked in the movie industry. She worked with celebrities and counts among her accomplishments training Brad Pitt for “Legends Of The Fall” and Robert Patrick for “Geronimo.”

As a horse trainer she enjoyed close friendships with her female clients but said their boyfriends and husbands mistook her intentions, becoming angry.

“They thought I was trying to hit on them, it was beyond heartbreaking,” she said. “I did try to have relationships but they all failed. So I isolated myself for 15 or 20 years.”

While working as a horse trainer she visited Santa Barbara on many occasions and decided that she would live there when she retired. “It has been one of the best decisions of my life,” she said.

Rachel finally sought help with her struggle in her identity. She was given a series of test over three days and was finally diagnosed as having gender identity disorder. She decided to have a sex change and went to UCLA to have a physical before the gender reassignment surgery.

It was then that Rachel was told she had a calcified tissue that puzzled the doctors. The doctors requested her medical records from England and eight years ago she learned she had indeed been born female. The file showed that the “vitamin shots” had been testosterone.

Now that Rachel knew she was a woman she had to figure out what to do to become who she was again.

“They had to figure out where I fit,” she said. “I couldn’t have a sex change because I was a female but I was living as a male. There were all kinds of ethical and medical issues. It was easier to stick with gender identity disorder to go through the process.

Do you see the irony? I was torn between a rock and a hard place. Ethically they couldn’t do anything.”

Rachel was offered two years ago to have her corrective surgery done free if she would allow a team of Ivy League medical professors to videotape the procedure.

So Rachel went to Florida to become a woman again.

To complete her transformation Rachel went to Thailand for cosmetic surgery and was in surgery when the tsunami hit. She was on Demerol and was confused when she awoke to announcements that all Americans should report immediately to the embassy. “I thought there was a revolt or coup!” Rachel said, laughing.

Rachel is now a philosophy and ethics major at City College and wants to get her major in order to work with children who are inter-sexed so she can prevent what happened to her.

She has taken classes from Professor Jim Chesher for three semesters.

“Before she enrolled in my honors Philosophy 101 class she asked my permission to enroll because she was not in the honors program,” Chesher said. “I thought it was interesting and respectful.”

It was at that point that she told me about her background and her plans and desires to become fully who she was and that she would require some medical attention.”

She wanted me to know that because she would be going through transformations during the course. We talked about her life, which is just fascinating. She’s so intelligent and sensitive. When the conversation was over I had such a sense of wonder of how it was for her to wonder ‘who am I?’ It was a fairly moving experience.”

Rachel is now spending her time trying to discover who she is and to fit in with the world around her as a woman.

“As opposed to being gay, you don’t see much militancy with inter-sexed people,” she said.

“We just want to blend in and forget the past.”

More to Discover