What’s in a num­ber? Dutch­man, 69, seek­ing age change to 49

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - INTERNATIONAL -

UTRECHT, Nether­lands (AP) — Self-styled pos­i­tiv­ity guru Emile Ratel­band thinks age is just a num­ber. And his is a num­ber the Dutch­man wants changed.

The 69-year-old TV per­son­al­ity has asked a court in the Nether­lands to ap­prove his re­quest for a new birth­day that of­fi­cially would make him 49.

Ratel­band says his le­gal ap­peal is con­sis­tent with other forms of per­sonal trans­for­ma­tion that are gain­ing ac­cep­tance and govern­ment recog­ni­tion in the Nether­lands and around the world.

“With this free(dom) of choice, choice of name, free­ness of gen­der, I want to have my own age. I want to con­trol my­self,” he said Wednedasy.

Ratel­band says he wants to avoid age dis­crim­i­na­tion in so­ci­ety — es­pe­cially on dat­ing web­sites.

“So when I ask for a mort­gage, for ex­am­ple, they say it’s im­pos­si­ble,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “If I go on Tin­der, then I get women from 68, 69 when women are there.”

How about just be­ing eco­nom­i­cal with the truth about his age?

“I don’t want to lie,” he said. “I want to be my­self, so don’t force me to lie.”

Mar­jolein van den Brink, who spe­cialises in hu­man rights and gen­der is­sues at Utrecht Uni­ver­sity’s law school, said age dis­crim­i­na­tion is a prob­lem but is dif­fer­ent than the is­sues in­volved in re­as­sign­ing gen­der.

“It’s quite clear that el­derly peo­ple have a much smaller chance of get­ting a job than younger peo­ple,” she said. “But that’s just one el­e­ment and it’s only some­thing that hap­pens to you once you reach the age of 40, 45, 50, de­pend­ing a bit on your job.

“Whereas gen­der is some­thing that fol­lows you from birth to grave, and it de­ter­mines nearly ev­ery­thing — and not just in the labour mar­ket but every­where,” she said.

In rare cases, even race has also be­come more fluid.

In Bri­tain, the­atre di­rec­tor An­thony Ekundayo Len­non has at­tracted at­ten­tion in part be­cause de­spite be­ing the son of white Ir­ish par­ents, he looks like a mixed-race man. He has also writ­ten and told jour­nal­ists that he thinks of him­self as black.

He says he was racially abused as a teenager be­cause of his ap­pear­ance, and when he started an act­ing ca­reer, he found it eas­ier to pur­sue non­white parts. He also took an African mid­dle name.

Now some black artists are com­plain­ing be­cause Len­non was re­cently given a paid trainee­ship in a pro­gramme de­signed to give more black peo­ple a chance for ca­reers in the arts.

His case re­sem­bles in some ways that of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman in the United States who iden­ti­fied her­self as black after she was raised by re­li­gious par­ents who had adopted four black chil­dren. She was work­ing for the NAACP when her ruse was un­cov­ered in 2015.

Ratel­band, the Dutch TV per­son­al­ity, says the Dutch Govern­ment could ben­e­fit if it were to ac­cept his age de­mand. He said he’d be happy to for­feit his monthly pen­sion of around 1,200 eu­ros ($1,370) — a con­ces­sion he es­ti­mates would save nearly 300,000 eu­ros ($343,000) over the 20 years he wants shaved off his age.

The court in the cen­tral city of Arn­hem is ex­pected to is­sue a rul­ing in about four weeks.

Ratel­band, who makes a liv­ing urg­ing peo­ple and busi­nesses to be pos­i­tive, de­nies that the age re­quest is a pub­lic­ity stunt. He claims he is seek­ing a per­sonal pos­i­tive ef­fect.

“Now I’m an old man. I have to save my money to give to my kids so that they can live,” said the fa­ther of seven. “But If I have that age again, I have hope again. I’m new again. The whole fu­ture is there for me again.”

(Photo: AP)

Self-styled Dutch pos­i­tiv­ity guru Emile Ratel­band an­swers ques­tions dur­ing an in­ter­view in Utrecht, Nether­lands, yes­ter­day. For Ratel­band age re­ally is just a num­ber. In a le­gal bat­tle that is stretch­ing the de­bate about just how far a per­son can go in chang­ing his or her iden­tity, the sixty-nine-year-old tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity has asked a Dutch court to of­fi­cially change his bi­o­log­i­cal date of birth to make him 49.

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