In The News : Pushing Boundaries

A pensioner in Holland has launched a legal bid to change his age to make him more attractive to women who are after more than a place in his will.

Emile Ratelband says that he identifies as someone 20 years younger than his actual age of 69, and so wants to legally change his date of birth from 11 March 1949 to 11 March 1969.  Apparently doctors have also told him that he has the body of a 45 year old.  Now if only Tinder would realise it too, he would “be in a luxurious position”.

He argues that if transgender people can change their sex on their birth certificate, “in the same spirit there should be room for an age change”.  He’s prepared to give up his pension to obtain various benefits that stretch beyond his online dating success.

The courts aren’t so sure, because he is effectively giving up part of his life.  Most people will laugh and mock the ridiculousness of it all.  However, is it not a really interesting test case?  We accept challenges to many other protected characteristics, after all.

Within the last week there has also been news of theatre director Anthony Ekundayo Lennon being awarded a grant from a scheme to help ethnic minorities in the arts.  Lennon identifies as black, despite being white.  Cyclists have been arguing after transgender Rachel McKinnon started doing well in some races.

It’s a common thing that we tell people, especially children, that they can be anything they want to be.  That is, at least, until the cold, hard reality hits that you can’t.  Lennon is not black, but wouldn’t have got the funding if he identified as his skin colour, despite many stories about cultural appropriation.  McKinnon states that her FTP is bang average for a female cyclist at 3.39w/kg.  Bang average for a woman of that category, but pretty darn awful for a bloke of the same category.  The solution then, to becoming a champion cyclist (one could argue) is to change gender.

One could also say, in Emile’s case, that time is a far bigger social construct than gender.  Time happens, but it was humans that put a value to it.

Part of being whatever you want to be is about pushing boundaries.  Ratelband has gone to a particular extreme but, until we go there, how do we actually make the decision about how far is too far?  And what can going there teach us about the places in which we’re comfortable?

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