It's been some time since Barack Obama has been in office, yet the rumor mill keeps chugging along with old and new claims alike concerning former First Lady Michelle Obama. The author, public speaker, and former attorney has lived quite a notable and accomplished life, but strange whisperings concerning her sexual orientation continue to circulate on the fringes, such as: "Is Michelle Obama transgender?" or "Is Michelle Obama a man?" To finally, hopefully lay this all to rest, we've investigated the origins of the accusations and have the definitive, factual answers.
While the rumor has been around for a while, fact-checking website PolitiFact noted that the rumor regained traction when Facebook users shared a 2020 post that claimed Michelle was actually born "Michael" LaVaughn Robinson.
The earliest instance of someone making this claim on public record was Joan Rivers in 2014. Weeks before she died after complication from what was supposed to be minor throat surgery, the comedienne casually remarked to paparazzi, "You know Michelle (Obama) is a trans ... A transgender. We all know it." More so, some conspiracy theorists went so far to claim that Rivers was even murdered over this as part of a cover up.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones—you know, the man who lost a lawsuit for claiming that the Sandy Hook shootings were a hoax—ran with the rumor. In 2017, he posted a 12-minute video suggesting the claims about Obama's gender were true. "Since the early days of the Obama administration, citizens across the board have studied videos and photos of Michelle Obama and said that she is a man," said Jones. With his far-right website Infowars receiving an average of 10 million visits per month, his attempt to revive this unfounded theory landed on more eyeballs than it should have.
From there the rumor made the rounds as it normally does, largely through social media and forums, with various memes, videos, and photos posted as supposed "proof."
Perhaps one reason it came back in the spotlight this year was because of DeAnna Lorraine. The failed Republican congressional candidate—a self-described "avid men’s and father’s rights activist"—supported the rumor with dogwhistles and cheap shots. "Michelle Obama is releasing a documentary on Netflix called 'Becoming'" she tweeted on April 28, 2020. "I wonder what she's becoming…"
Lorraine lost the primary election to Nancy Pelosi in March, receiving 4,635 votes versus Pelosi's 190,590. Two days after the defeat, she tweeted, "I honestly wonder if Michelle Obama has the 'balls' to face the scrutiny that she would come under if she signed on to be Biden's VP. Michelle has never been truly vetted."
Her Twitter account has since been suspended.
NO! At this point, we hope it would be obvious that this rumor is not only completely meritless, but that it is also just plain absurd. To take a comedian at face value all the time defeats the point of a joke, and Joan Rivers was a true queen of sarcasm. The remark in question came after officiating a same-sex wedding when she was questioned if she thought the US would ever see a gay president. She later released the following statement on the matter:
I think it's a compliment. She's so attractive, tall, with a beautiful body, great face, does great makeup. Take a look and go back to La Cage Au Follies (sic). The most gorgeous women are transgender. Stop it already ... and if you want to talk about 'politically correct,' I think this is a 'politically incorrect' attack on me because I'm old, Jewish, a woman and a 'hetty' -- a heteosexual ... and I plan to sue the reporter who, when he turned off his camera, tried to touch me inappropriately on the a** - luckily he hit my ankle. Read the book ... if you think that's silly, wait to (sic) you see what I say about FDR and Eleanor!
As for her being murdered over "exposing" Michelle Obama, there is plenty of evidence to back up that she sadly died due to complications from surgery.
To understand why such a rumor persists, one only needs to observe the drama between young school children. The Obama presidency was earned fair and square and there are people who were unable to accept it. Spreading misinformation was an act of immature revenge—and on a larger, more dangerous scale, it was an attempt to delegitimize the office of the presidency. According to an insightful analysis in The Independent, the claim is also an example of transphobia. To paint Michelle Obama as transgender is a misguided attempt to suggest that she is second-class or inferior to cisgender people.
Just because this false claim has been put to rest, it doesn't mean Michelle Obama is in the clear. Given her status, she will likely have to fend off wild rumors for the rest of her life. GossipCop has already had to bust a bunch of fake stories: some have been petty, such as the rumor that she was desperate to get on the guest list for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding. Others are garden variety scandalous, like a fictional 2019 report that she and Barack were embroiled in a bitter $150 million divorce. And then there are the rumors that cut deep, like this year's false story in The Globe that claimed she was resentful of her role as a mother.
In a political climate where Obama's adversaries decry "fake news," we'll do them a favor and continue to debunk these types of lies when we see them.
This is a completely baseless rumor that needs to finally die once and for all.