StarMetro Calgary - - BIG OPINIONS - Emma Tei­tel

You may have heard the story of Emile Ratel­band, the Dutch mo­ti­va­tional speaker who made in­ter­na­tional head­lines in Novem­ber when he asked per­mis­sion to legally change his age from 69 to 49.

He wanted to do this in part be­cause he looks pretty good for a guy go­ing on 70, and he seemed to gen­uinely be­lieve that be­ing 20 years younger on pa­per might help his ro­man­tic prospects in the real world, specif­i­cally on dat­ing apps.

It didn’t ap­pear to oc­cur to him, how­ever, that most women would prob­a­bly pre­fer a young look­ing 69-year-old to a very old look­ing 49-year-old.

But the ques­tion­able logic be­hind Ratel­band’s age rere­cords quest is no longer rel­e­vant be­cause news emerged this week that it has been de­nied.

He has plans to ap­peal the de­ci­sion, but a Dutch court re­jected the plea to shave two decades off his life, con­clud­ing in a state­ment: “Mr. Ratel­band is at lib­erty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act ac­cord­ingly, but amend­ing his date of birth would cause 20 years of to van­ish from the reg­is­ter of births, deaths, mar­riages and reg­is­tered part­ner­ships. This would have a va­ri­ety of un­de­sir­able le­gal and so­ci­etal im­pli­ca­tions.”

In short, this was an ob­vi­ous call for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. But the court made the right call for an­other less ob­vi­ous rea­son: had it granted Ratel­band’s wish to change his age, the world would most likely be an even harsher place for trans­gen­der peo­ple.

If you don’t be­lieve me, con­sider Ratel­band’s core ar­gu­ment — re­peated through­out the me­dia — about why he should be al­lowed to change his age. He is quoted in ma­jor pub­li­ca­tions say­ing, “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gen­der. Why can't I de­cide my own age?”

If Bruce can legally be­come Cait­lyn, in other words, why can’t a 69-year-old legally trans­form into a 49-year-old to af­firm how sprightly he feels in­side? For that mat­ter, why can’t any­one be­come any­thing un­der the law?

Trans­gen­der rights cam­paigner Jane Fae tried to an­swer this ques­tion when she ap­peared on the BBC with Ratel­band last month. Be­ing trans­gen­der, she told him, is “not just an iden­tity. It’s a med­i­cal con­di­tion that has been un­der­stood for 50 years. What you are ac­tu­ally do­ing is try­ing to make a com­par­i­son that is re­ally quite taste­less.”



The ar­gu­ment made by Emile Ratel­band about why he should be al­lowed to legally change his age only helped fuel op­po­si­tion to trans­gen­der rights, Emma Tei­tel writes.

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