A 69 year old Dutch man, Emile Ratelband, is petitioning a court to legally change his age to 49. For him, it is an exercise of personal autonomy: “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 told The Washington Post that “we can make our own decisions if we want to change our name, or if we want to change our gender. So I want to change my age. My feeling about my body and about my mind is that I’m about 40 or 45.”

Absurd, right?  Yes, but not given the logic of the transgender movement. If we have absolute autonomy over ourselves, such that we can deny biological reality due to our feelings, it’s not a stretch to think we have the autonomy to deny historical reality because of our feelings too. If feelings rather than biology determine one’s gender, then why can’t feelings rather than history determine one’s age?

Of course, this leads to absurdities. A man who is historically 60 years old but feels like his true age is 40 would have to say that he is not old enough to remember the first moon landing, when in fact, he would have been 9 years old at the time and surely remembers the historic event.  And how would he determine his historical age at any given point in the past?  Would he divide the number of days he’s lived (21,900) by 40 to arrive at his own personal year of 547.5 days?  Something that happened when he was actually 45 would have to be redefined to age 30?

What if someone feels older than they are?  Why can’t a person say they feel like their true age is 150, and since no one can live to be 150 years old, they are actually dead rather than alive?  What if that person tells others to stop telling him that he’s alive, because he finds it offensive?  If autonomy means we have a right to our own biological and historical reality, why can’t we determine whether we are dead or alive?  Of course, that’s absurd.  But so is thinking that a man is truly a woman simply because he feels that way.  There is no end to the absurdities we can concoct once we enthrone feelings as the true reality.

 

UPDATE: The court denied Ratelband’s request. They didn’t reject his request because it is a denial of historical reality, but because of undesirable and unworkable practical problems. They wrote, “[U]nlike the situation with respect to a change in registered name or gender, there are a variety of rights and duties related to age, such as the right to vote and the duty to attend school. If Mr Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless. … 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 records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”  Couldn’t the same be said regarding gender? Aren’t there undesirable legal and societal implications for declaring a biological male to be a female? It has undesirable societal implications for girls’ sports and girls’ privacy in public restrooms. It creates legal problems as well. So why allow people to legally change their gender but not their age? What’s the principled difference?

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