Whether it’s for realsies or to make a point is unclear, but Emile Ratelband is trying to do it.
A 69-year-old Dutch “positivity guru” who says he does not feel his age has started a battle to make himself legally 20 years younger on the grounds that he is being discriminated against on a dating app.
Emile Ratelband told a court in Arnhem in the Netherlands that he did not feel “comfortable” with his date of birth, and compared his wish to alter it to people who identified as transgender.
Ratelband said that due to having an official age that did not reflect his emotional state he was struggling to find both work and love. He has asked for his date of birth to be changed from 11 March 1949 to 11 March 1969.
Ridiculous, and yet, the logical extension of nonsensical rhetorical eradication of facts for feelz. Ratelband offers his reason for seeking the change, and presents his evidence in support of his position.
“When I’m 69, I am limited. If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car,” he said. “I can take up more work. When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer. When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.”
Doctors had told him his body was that of a 45-year-old man, Ratelband argued. He described himself as a “young god”.
It’s certainly true that his opportunities, both in employment and amore, would expand greatly if he were 20 years younger. Concern over discrimination based on age seems to have fallen to the wayside in our zeal to obsess over other forms of discrimination. And besides, old people are, well, old. Yuck.
Whether his self-description is accurate, particularly given that there are some “gods” who are less than youthful, is backed up by a doctor. If he’s in great health and physical condition, doesn’t that count for something? The calendar may say 69, but other parts of the anatomy, covered in Axe Body Wash, scream youth. Is that not his right?
The judge conceded that the ability to change gender was a development in the law. “I agree with you: a lot of years ago we thought that was impossible,” he said.
Some will see this as an attack on transgender people, a way to ridicule them and deny their existence. Obviously, they exist and don’t magically disappear because the rationale employed to argue for their rights is problematic. And most won’t dare to challenge the rationale because it’s taken as an attack against them. Who wants to attack transgender people, except horrible people?
The judge, questioning Ratelband, interposed a small dose of factual reality into the mix, but Ratelband had an easy answer.
But he asked the applicant how his parents would feel about 20 years of Ratelband’s life being wiped off the records.
“For whom did your parents care? Who was that little boy then?” the judge asked.
Ratelband, a motivational speaker and trainer in neurolinguistic programming, said his parents were dead.
Clearly, he’s got Millennial memes down pat. And yet, why should he not be able to change his birth certificate to make himself 20 years younger if that’s how he feels, if that’s how he perceives himself? Why shouldn’t Rachel Dolezal perceive herself as black, for that matter? Why shouldn’t I be 6’3″ tall? If the contingency is sincere belief, that may leave me out, but not Ratelband or Dolezal.
The problem isn’t that transgender people don’t exist, but how the rationale behind their assertion of right bears out under scrutiny when applied to other parallel beliefs that, if the logic holds, are similarly entitled to acceptance? Or to put it otherwise, what becomes of objective fact when subjective belief is elevated to prominence?
Ratelband’s lawyer, Jan-Hein Kuijpers, said it was high time for the reversal of age.
The public prosecutor in the court asked whether the ability to change a date of birth in the law would require health inspections in the future, to allow the state to correctly judge someone’s “emotional age”.
Kuijpers told the court: “There is also something like common sense, of course.”
Is there something like “common sense” when it comes to altering objective fact to align with subjective belief? Is there such a thing as common sense at all? Can the replacement of objective fact with subjective belief in order to accommodate a person’s feelings and wishes suffice to make a 69-year-old man a 49 year old? If he changes his online dating profile, is he a liar or will some woman who takes issue with his age claim be a discriminator?
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, one of the defining arguments in its favor was the impropriety of discriminating based upon “immutable characteristics.”* A person was a woman because of her biological attributes. A person was of Hispanic heritage because of where his family derived. A person was black because of his skin color. Each of these things, at least given perceptions of reality at the time, was acceptable in part because one couldn’t fake it, claim to be one thing while in fact being another.
If we accept the premise that people can be whatever they sincerely believe themselves to be, then where is the logical ledge that keeps the argument from sliding down the slippery slope? If we keep creating new categories of gender for the sake of accommodating every person’s feelings and doubts, questions and beliefs, is there any objective means of distinguishing between people? And if not when it comes to gender, there is no rational basis to do so for any other self-belief that defies objective facts.
This isn’t to attack anyone’s belief that they’re whatever they want to be, or erase their “lived experience,” but presents the problem that if everybody gets to pick and choose facts, then facts no longer exist or matter, and everyone can pick identities that give them rights that match their desired outcome. Want to get into Harvard? Asian kids should self-identify as black kids. Except then what happens to actual black kids?
If this strikes you as outlandish, despite the fact that the same rationale applies with the same force, consider what it’s like to be a biological female high school runner in the state championships competing against a transgender female runner. Kinda sucks to be born with double X chromosomes, rhetoric notwithstanding. Is that fair to everyone?** Of course we should be fair to the transgender athlete, but should we ignore the biologically female athlete?
And I’m now 39, because why not?
*Granted, it prohibited discrimination on the basis of religion, which is obviously not immutable, but was wrongfully perceived as such at the time.
**Yes, there are rules that apply to transgender athletes in an effort to level the playing field. Whether they do the trick is a matter of some dispute.