CLEARING THE AIR
Exclusive: Michael Phelps’s Intersex Self-Proclaimed Girlfriend, Taylor Lianne Chandler, Tells All
Taylor Chandler claims she met the Olympic champion on Tinder, and they fell in love. Then she came out as intersex and the media went nuts. Now she tells her side of the story.
On November 13, in a long, rambling Facebook post, Taylor Lianne Chandler addressed why she was “freaked out” that her alleged romantic relationship with Michael Phelps, the 18-time Olympic gold medalist, had been exposed in the tabloids.
She claimed that “if him and I were photographed or seen together the media people would want to know who I am,” and that she’s been “living with secrets my whole life.” Then, Chandler, 41, came out as intersex, claiming she was born David Roy Fitch, but as long as she could remember, she identified as a woman. In the post, she claimed to have blackmailed a man to pay for her surgery, and wound up getting nabbed for extortion, spending 30 days in jail. There, she says she was raped.Things began to look up, she said in the post, when she met Phelps, 29, on Tinder. “Spending time with him was like a teenage love affair. I have never felt so comfortable and accepted in every way as I did with him,” said Chandler. She claims she chose to come out and tell her story “to take the power away from the media and tabloids that want to hurt Michael” even though it means she’ll “probably lose him.” And the media, meanwhile, has referred to her as every label under the sun, from “a man” to “transsexual.” Phelps has remained silent.
Here, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Chandler opens up about how they couple met on the popular hook-up app, the night of Phelps’ DUI when their relationship began to fall apart, and how the media has treated her thus far.
So what is the publicity like? Are you getting recognized now?
Taylor Chandler: Everywhere I go. I live right outside of D.C. so we went to a hole in the wall restaurant called Glory Days yesterday and a group of six high school students were at a table and recognized me. Then they told the server who told the bartender, next thing I know I’m taking pictures. It’s just funny. I’m just so plastered across social media it becomes a whole new existence. I mean there is good and bad to it.
What has been some of the bad?
A lot of negative comments from people that don’t understand what intersex is. I think the hardest part for me is how it’s affected my family and friends because people have tried to friend them or contact them. It breaks my heart. My sister called me yesterday and said they were at the grocery store and my niece looks up and says, “Mommy why is Auntie Taylor on a magazine and it says she’s a man?” It just broke my heart. Tears were flowing down my face because it’s so hard. You don’t think of all the ramifications.
How do you feel about the headlines proclaiming you were born a man?
Horrible. The first that came out was The National Enquirer. I thought if I cooperated it would make it better… I was so upset that day. I was devastated. I couldn’t stop crying. I was literally on the 18th floor in a penthouse suite and I really thought about ending it. I couldn’t imagine what this was going to mean for my life. I’ve never been called a man in my entire life. It was just devastating to me.
How do you feel now?
I feel like I have this opportunity to turn this into something good and teach people about intersex.
Why did you choose to “come out” as intersex?
I didn’t really have a choice. I think a misconception everybody has is that I had an ulterior motive. September 30th was the DUI. The first thing they did was say I was with Michael the night of the DUI. Well, he got arrested at 1:40 in the morning; I was with him later that evening. I was not with him on the 29th when he was gambling and then drove home and actually got the DUI. But that’s the way they published it. Then two days later because I was there that night, the media saw me go to his house, leave his house, then later come back, then crying, getting into a Uber. From paying with a credit card to knowing what my car was, they found out my name. First they labeled me the “girlfriend,” then I was the “cougar girlfriend.”
Was that hard to deal with?
No one can imagine what that’s like. One day you’re a silent interpreter working on the Hill working at local hospitals, you’re dealing with privacy confidentiality, and the next day you’re in the news. It’s overwhelming. You think it’s going to go away but the only thing that went away was him. And then I was left to deal with this all by myself. Which has been hard. It got to the point where the media just wouldn’t stop digging. Then I got a phone call and they knew my life.
When did you tell Michael?
When this happened I told Michael first, very intimately and in much more detail, what was going on. Then the next day on my private Facebook, I told family and friends. My ex-husband flew home from Afghanistan, we told our daughter, his daughter, but who to me is like my daughter. He told his family and I told my friends. And ironically enough, no one walked away. My exes were more concerned with my well-being because of everything I was going through. I’ve lost fourteen pounds since September 30th. The everyday stress, wondering if the other shoe was going to drop and I was going to be outed, is what led to me outing myself. I felt like I was taking my power back. Taking the wind out of the sails of the tabloids. I thought that would be the end of it.
Do you feel like Michael’s DUI hurt your relationship?
He got the DUI, but we’re both facing the consequences of it. 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. He went away to rehab for six weeks, he’s been isolated from all of this. Within 36 hours after he left I was getting phone calls from TMZ, The National Enquirer, local news outlets wanting comments, statements, everything, just because I was his “girlfriend” which was a label the media gave me.
So did you consider yourself his girlfriend?
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. We had made plans that weekend—had he not gotten a DUI, he was coming to see me and my friends. He would’ve met my friends for the first time then.
I’d read that you two met on Tinder. Is that true?
Yep. He pursued me. He was actually outside the age range for what my account was setup for. But what I’ve learned is when someone looks at whatever and likes you, even if they’re younger it shows up in your feed. And my father is a jockey so when I saw his picture I knew it was a grandstand at a racetrack. And who doesn’t know who Michael Phelps is? But at the time I just didn’t think it was real. You just figure it’s fake.
When you met him on Tinder were you initially thinking of this as a hook-up or a relationship?
A relationship. And we talked about that because my Tinder account specifically says “if you’re looking for a hook-up or sex keep it moving.” You know, I go through a little bio of myself and at the bottom I actually give what the creator of Tinder meant it to be—an app that imitated real life, when you are walking down the street and see someone you like. It was never meant to be a “hook-up app” so he knew that about me. He also knew I’d been single for two years. We talked about the fact that I wasn’t looking to get involved with someone unless it was serious. I’m not ugly, so its not like men don’t approach me, but I wanted something real. And it felt real with him. I’ve been to his house four times, we talk everyday, and I’ve slept with him more than once. All the stuff they’re reporting is completely untrue.
So what was your sex life like?
That’s another misquote. They say, “She said he made me feel like a true woman for the first time.” I never said that. It’s funny. He made me feel whole…I have scars and as pretty as you think you look in clothes, to be naked and vulnerable in front of someone is awkward especially when it’s noon and as bright as can be. But he just made me feel like I was the most beautiful woman in the world regardless of scars or any imperfections. There was never anything about me or my body that he had an adverse reaction to. There is not one part of my body that he does not know. He’s so passionate and so loving.
Now that the public is aware of your intersex status, do you fear that will change your relationship with him?
Well, here’s the thing. Being intersex really shouldn’t change anyone’s thoughts on anything. I was born intersex. Up until now, I’ve never used the label. I was just a female. I’ve never told anyone I dated, none of my girlfriends or my ex-husband, none of them knew. It wasn’t something I shared.
Are you and Michael still together?
I can assure you the reason we are not together right now and the reason I haven’t heard from him is not because I was born intersex. It’s not because of all the social media or tabloids. It has nothing to do with that whatsoever. The reason we’re not together is his story to tell if he decides to tell it. It has nothing to do with me and I did nothing wrong.
So you’re saying there is something else going on the media is unaware of?
So it sounds like you’ve been misunderstood in the media.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but in the media’s defense I don’t think they know. In my opinion, if you’re going to report on something you should do the research and know what it means because almost every country has an intersex society or group.
What does it mean to be intersex?
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.
What was it like to grow up as an intersex?
Being born in the ‘70s, normally what doctors would do is whatever was most predominant and easiest to repair. 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.
As soon as I was able to communicate, I never said I wanted to be a girl. I just knew I was. And I was very vocal about it. I dressed as a girl, lived as a girl, acted as a girl, and that was that. My mother died when I was three months old in a car accident, and my dad being a jockey, he gave me to his parents to raise. And them being even further old school, their reaction to the medical terminology about intersex, well, I can clearly remember my grandfather saying doctors were quacks. Then they sent me to psychologists and it was like “screw his head on straight.” It was tough for a while, but I knew who I was, so I stayed true to it. There were times when I was forced to be more androgynous than I care to be, but I stayed true to who I was and left home when I was fifteen. My birth certificate was modified, I changed my name, and when I was sixteen I emancipated from my grandparents and my father.
So have you always identified as a woman?
Correct. This is new ground for me. I feel like with all the bad that has come from this, this is an opportunity for me to shed light on what its like to be intersex, as well as other spectrums of gender. Since I’ve been thrown onto this platform, I actually need to learn more about it before I say the wrong thing because I’ve never lived in this world. As far as I was concerned, once I had corrective surgery I was just a female. Period.