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The Real Michael Phelps 'Scandal' Is the Offensive Portrayal of Intersex People

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Claudia Astorino, The Guardian

Intersex people exist, and we’re fighting for our basic human rights. Stop treating us as props and oddities.


Being intersex isn’t itself headline-worthy and, more importantly, our lives aren’t headlines. We’re just people who happen to be intersex.

But this week, Taylor Lianne Chandler’s claim that she has been dating Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps made headlines everywhere – and not because of his celebrity status or their age difference. This story has been wildly popular because Chandler identified as intersex.

I woke up to a flurry of activity on Facebook this week from friends who were upset about the newest set of articles revealing that someone in the media spotlight is intersex. My chest felt heavy, and I hoped this wouldn’t be what it always is.

I scanned the headlines already half wincing, knowing I’d be disappointed: reporters both write that she was “born a man” and refer to her as intersex, as though those are the same thing. The word “scandalous” was used, though it’s hardly a surprise that Phelps has a girlfriend. In one headline, Chandler “admits”that she’s intersex, as if she’s confessing to a crime. Much of the coverageinaccurately refers to intersex to as a gender identity, using it as synonymous with transgender. Some press accounts detail what Chandler’s genitals looked like at birth or look like now. Readers are invited to wonder whether Phelps will continue the alleged relationship with Chandler knowing that she’s intersex – to ponder, in effect, whether anyone accepts intersex people enough to date them at all.

I turned away from my laptop, disgusted.

My life is busy but mundane – and it has a normalcy that’s not reflected in the sensationalized framing …read more


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