THE BLOG
11/20/2014 08:04 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Taylor Lianne Chandler, Michael Phelps' Supposed Girlfriend, Came Out as Intersex -- She Was Not 'Born a Man'

Taylor Lianne Chandler was born intersex. Contrary to recent headlines, she was not "born a male" or "born a dude," and she is absolutely not "a man's worst nightmare."

Of course, Chandler's story -- which she first published in a a Facebook post on Nov. 13 -- was only deemed relevant by the media days later, because she supposedly has had a relationship with Olympian Michael Phelps. However, what is most revealing about this slew of headlines has nothing to do with her relationship with Phelps; it has to do with the media itself.

The bottom line is this: If the media covers someone who comes out as intersex, it is its responsibility to educate itself about what that means. In Chandler's case, although some outlets did cover the term correctly, the majority failed. This is deplorable. Why? Because it just reinforces stereotypes.

Here's the deal: Gender is not binary. Being "born a man" is a ridiculous concept to begin with. Nobody is born a man; we are born babies. (Society then creates gender roles.) And, further, the idea of Chandler as "a man's worst nightmare" reinforces the idea that non-binary people are somehow "tricking" people.

That said, on the most basic level, the term "intersex" has absolutely nothing to do with being born a male. Nothing. Per the Intersex Society of North America:

"Intersex" is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types--for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.

Chandler too was clear from the beginning about her gender. In her original Facebook post she wrote:

If you don't understand what intersex is, Google it. I was never a man, never lived as a man. No one can say they knew me as a man or produce a photo of me as a man. There are people that remember me as an androgynous child at times because of what was forced upon me. ... I have always been a female regardless of labels and personal opinions. I am not a transsexual and I have never identified with the moniker transgender, but intersex is certainly on the spectrum of gender along with them.

And in a later Facebook post following a host of these headlines, Chandler wrote of their harm to her well-being:

Two steps forward and 100 steps backwards. That is what life feels like to me right now. In a world of educated people that had all the facts of intersex and what it means and then to sell a magazine say Michael Phelps is dating a MAN. I have cried now for an hour, thrown up anything in my system till I dry heaved. I just can't believe this is happening in 2014!

Media outlets cannot cop to ignorance for misgendering an intersex person. This is more than salacious gossip. It's disgraceful. And the media needs to do better.

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