What Happens When 13 Million People Know Your Name

Imagine waking up and finding out that millions upon millions of people around the world had viewed your high school formal dance.

First, there was a couple dozen views. Then a hundred. Five hundred. Several thousand. Overnight, millions.

Imagine waking up and finding out that millions upon millions of people around the world had viewed your high school formal dance.

That's how it went for Michael Cox and his then-girlfriend, Taylor Anderton.

A video of the Queensland couple's dance at the Debutante Ball was filmed by the ABC, and suddenly, the entire world was talking about it.

"It was getting out of control," said Simon Cox, Michael's dad, who was fielding calls from journalists in the United States.

It wasn't long after when the couple were featured again on Australian Story, prompting a nation-wide debate about the sterilisation of people with disabilities.

That's because Michael and Taylor both have Down syndrome.

When the couple started dating, both sets of parents were relieved their kids were getting to experience a relationship like anybody else.

When Michael proposed a year later, it prompted new fears about what this might mean for the parents, and it was this fear -- about grandkids and the future and what consent means for people with intellectual disabilities -- that made up a large part of the half-hour episode.

"We knew that was going to be divisive," Simon told ten daily.

"The majority of people were really supportive, it was quite incredible.

"Then there were the nasty people. Your standard keyboard warriors and trolls and stuff."

The story gripped the nation. It aired in 2016, and still people recognise Michael from the episode.

"I feel like a celebrity," he said.

Simon added: "You walk down the street with him, and people ask, 'Are you Michael from Australian Story?'"

In the following days, people reached out across the world with advice, similar stories, or simply looking for a friendly ear.

Then there's the darker side of going viral -- the "weird" people contacting Michael and Taylor directly. One person even approached the families claiming he had the 'cure' for Down syndrome, a notion that's as offensive as it is inaccurate.

Michael and Taylor. Photo: Australian Story.

But mostly, it ignited debate about bodily autonomy for people with disabilities. Disability advocates strongly condemned the concern from Michael and Taylor's parents about what would happen if they had kids, and able-bodied commentators spoke about supporting the young lovers however the needed to be supported.

"It's really easy for people to say, 'I'll take this shot because there's no consequences'," said Simon.

"The naive do-gooders would say, let it all happen. We go, okay, but there's go to be a structure of support around it.

Sadly, the couple are no longer together. He's still keen for a future "with the right person", however -- one that involves kids -- and in the meantime, is exploring the world of dating apps.

"I love it," he said, telling ten daily that he uses both Tinder and Bumble. "Lots of girls are amazing."

He said that his parents met through mutual friends, but he doesn't have that same wider social circle.

"I don't actually have a lot of friends. I've got mates who I see sometime, and I've got my best friend, but I don't have that group."

With the encouragement of both his siblings and work colleagues, dating apps have given him a way to test the waters with potential new relationships.

Michael's also still representing Australia in swimming -- and breaking world records to boot -- and next year he'll compete at the Inas Global Games in Brisbane.

Simon and Michael, chatting to ten daily.

He's also close to becoming the first accredited swimming coach with Down syndrome in the country.

"If he pulls his finger out," joked Simon, earning a laugh from Michael.

It's that ease and comradery between father and son that really stands out during our chat.

Two years ago, the conversation was about taking sides: support the parents, or support the kids? But they're a team.

They're supporting each other, and the rest of us should just back off and let them do that.