When news.com.au decided to publish an inaccurate and potentially dangerous piece of clickbait yesterday, suggesting that US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has had some sort of sordid affair, I saw social media respond overwhelmingly with the sort of intelligence and maturity lacking among the editors who published the article.
The article has done little other than to set back all of the achievements of the transgender community in being recognized and respected in and by the media.
If we were supposed to be scandalized, shocked and voyeuristically tickled by this blatant and pointless clickbait, then we can all be thankful of the epic fail it has been.
Most of the comments I saw on Facebook were clear in recognizing that this is not news, is no one else’s business and frankly, few people care who Michael Phelps has sex with.
There is no scandal here.
All this article is saying, is that Michael Phelps used the app Tinder to ‘hook-up’ with a woman and have sex with her.
And lets’ be honest, how different is that to the many people who use Tinder in the same way?
The article’s attempt to suggest Taylor Chandler, the woman who claims to have had the affair with Phelps, was born a male is as ridiculous as the suggestion that this affair was inappropriate or an example of sexual deviance.
And this is the real danger of this type of clickbait.
This scandalous and inaccurate article demeans Phelps, Chandler and all intersex people and their partners.
One of the saddest aspects to this is how quickly the efforts of many in the intersex and transgender community to improve how they are represented in the media can be so quickly undone.
Earlier this year, The Guardian reported on an initiative in the UK that included editors from the Daily Mail, which also published the article, to work with transgender campaigners in order to look at strategies for better representing transgender people in the media.
In one hit of the publish button, news.com has undone so many of these advances.
The article seedily suggests that Taylor Chandler was born a boy, which she was not.
She was born intersex, which Wikipedia says may “not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female.”
She also wasn’t Phelps’s girlfriend. They met through Tinder and had what appears to be a one afternoon stand.
Are we suppose to be shocked that Phelps is on Tinder?
If so, why?
Plenty of others are.
So, what is this article really about?
Is it about the vague suggestion at the end that Chandler is nothing more than a woman scorned?
According to the closing paragraphs of the article, Phelps hasn’t been in touch with her since the affair, although in his defense he may have been a little busy in rehab for the last six weeks.
Or is she just seeking publicity and her fifteen minutes of fame?
Or has she been grossly misrepresented?
Have her actions set back progress in representing transgender people in the media?
We can only speculate on any and all of these questions, but let’s not degrade two consenting adults for having sex.
Taylor Chandler is not the first woman Michael Phelps has had sex with and she won’t be the last.
This isn’t news.
Neither Michael Phelps nor Taylor Chandler have anything to be ashamed or embarrassed about in regards to their hook-up.
I’m happy to say that from what I’ve seen on social media, this is also the position of the vast majority.