Taylor Lianne Chandler Sets the Record Straight on All the Things the Media Got Wrong About Her
When the woman who had been seeing Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps at the time of his DUI in September, Taylor Lianne Chandler, came out as intersex last week, it made waves across the media. How the media actually handled the story, though, was depressingly disappointing. Sensationalism, incorrect terminology, awful “jokes,” and outright shaming abounded; it’s never been clearer that the media has to change how it reports on trans and intersex individuals. What happened to Chandler is unacceptable. Period.
But now she’s setting the record straight. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Chandler explained all the things the media got wrong about her, her relationship with Phelps, and what it means to be intersex. Everyone should read this interview — and I do mean everyone. We clearly need to change the way we talk about these sorts of issues, and the best place to start is with someone who lives with them every day.
Here are some of the facts according to Chandler; head on over to The Daily Beast for more.
She wasn’t with Michael Phelps when he got the DUI.
Although the media spun it such that it sounded like she was literally in the car with him when he got pulled over in the wee hours of the morning on September 30, she wasn’t. She did go to see him later on — but somehow, that visit got turned into her physically being there with him. Said Chandler:
“He got arrested at 1:40 in the morning; I was with him later that evening. I was not with him on [September] 29 when he was gambling and then drove home and actually got the DUI. But that’s the way they published it...First they labeled me the ‘girlfriend,’ then I was the ‘cougar girlfriend.’”
Why does this matter? Because it was what prompted her to come out as intersex in the first place. Although she thinks the public suspects her of having an “ulterior motive” for coming out, she felt that the situation backed her into a corner, requiring her to come out.
Their relationship was extremely new.
This makes sense, given that she originally wrote that “spending time with him was like a teenage love affair” — that’s what new relationships really feel like. As she put it to The Daily Beast:
“I mean you’ve got to understand I was talking to him since the middle of August. And seeing him seriously the middle of September, then he got the DUI September 30th and then he left early morning of October 6th to go to rehab. So things were new with us."
The “fame” sucks. A lot.
In case you needed more proof that she didn’t have an “ulterior motive," Chandler says Phelps is not the only one facing consequences of his DUI. It was because of her presence with Phelps in the aftermath that National Enquirer and local news outlets called her for comment, labeling her as Phelps' girlfriend.
“If he hadn’t gotten the DUI, no one would have known who I was. No one would have cared seeing me come out of his house like I’d come out of his house before. So when he got that DUI, we’re both paying the price for it, he’s not the only one."
That’s got to be brutal to deal with.
Here’s what being intersex means, both in general and for her specifically:
The Intersex Society of North America has pretty much everything you need to know about it, but how Chandler explained it is enormously useful, as well:
“Intersex is an umbrella term that’s kind of replaced hermaphrodite, which is politically incorrect. Intersex is actually the umbrella over thirty-plus sets of variations of birth anomalies, but what it boils down to is: you’re a combination of both genders.”
She was born in the ‘70s, at which time the norm was for doctors to do “whatever was predominant and easiest to repair.” Said Chandler:
“So for me, they look down and they see what appears to be a penis, but on the backside of it it’s open like a slit. So they close that off. They just assumed my testes hadn’t dropped not thinking for whatever reason that there just weren’t any. And it’s not like they do an x-ray or MRI on a child that’s just born to see if they have a uterus. So they hand me to my parents and say here’s your baby boy. So before I could talk, no one knew anything different.”
It’s also worth noting that she “never said [she] wanted to be a girl. [She] just knew [she] was.” She didn’t have an easy time of it, though; she was raised by her grandparents, who weren’t at all up on medical terminology pertaining to being intersex. “I can clearly remember my grandfather saying doctors were quacks,” Chandler noted. “Then they sent me to psychologists and it was like ‘screw his head on straight.” There times were she felt she had to display “more androgynous” than she really wanted to — but, she said, “I knew who I was, so I stayed true to it.” She left home at 15, had her birth certificate modified, and changed her name; she emancipated herself at the age of 16.
She’s trying to use this situation for the powers of good.
Chandler has always identified as a woman, but even though she’s had a rough time dealing with the spotlight that’s been thrown on her, she’s trying to put it to good use. “This is new ground for me,” she said:
“I feel like with all the bad that has come from this, this is an opportunity for me to shed light on what it’s like to be intersex, as well as other spectrums of gender."
Like I said, everyone should read this interview; catch the whole thing over at The Daily Beast. It's too important to miss.
Image: Taylor Lianne Chandler/Facebook