Man Cannot Legally Turn Back Time

December 14, 2018

A birth certificate is an official record detailing a person’s date and place of birth, parentage, legal name, and gender.  Progress has been made in being able toalarm clock change this record to better reflect the reality of who that person is, such as updating the name and gender listings.  Recently, an elderly Dutch gentleman has garnered attention by arguing that in addition to one’s name and gender, a person should be allowed to change their age.  Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old self-styled “positivity guru”, petitioned a Dutch court in November of 2018 to officially change his birth certificate by decreasing his age to 49 years old.

In his petition, Ratelband requested that his birth date be amended from March 1949 and changed to March 1969 in order to better reflect the age he feels.  He asserted that he does not feel like he is 69 years old, and that his request is no different than other forms of personal transformation that are recognized as legitimate reasons to change a birth certificate.  His argument is that, comparable with requests to change one’s gender or name, this “has to do with [his] feeling … [his] identity.”

Age discrimination is also among the cited reasons for Ratelband’s request.  He stated that he feels “abused, aggrieved and discriminated against because of [his] age.”  A significant portion of his argument on this front has been dedicated to his performance on dating apps like Tinder.  In that same statement, he said “I am a young god, I can have all the girls I want but not after I tell them that I am 69.”  In what has become the cry of his crusade, Ratelband concluded by asking, “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can’t I decide my own age?”

The district court was unconvinced by Ratelband’s arguments.  The court, located in Arhem in the eastern part of the Netherlands, rejected his petition on December 3, 2018.  In a public statement, the court responded that “[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.”  The decision declined to create new case law in the same vein as that authorizing changes to a registered name or gender, but did not extensively address Ratelband’s arguments that compared his cause to that of transgender individuals.

Observers such as Jane Fae, a transgender rights activist, have taken the time to point out the difference in Ratelband’s claims and those of transgender individuals.  “Being transgender is not just an identity. It’s a medical condition that has been understood for 50 years,” Fae indicated.  Those in the Dutch community have written Ratelband’s actions off as another attempt in a long-running series of headline-grabbing efforts.  He previously filed petitions to name his twins Rolls and Royce, which courts similarly denied.  He also founded a short-lived political party named The Ratelband List.  Some have also taken to pointing out inconsistencies in his claims, such as a line in his biography from the Ratelband Research Institute, which states that he is in “a steady relationship with the woman of his dreams.”

Unrattled by the court’s decision or criticism that his case has drawn, Ratelband is pressing onward and has declared his intent to appeal.  He stated that “the reaction of the judges is fantastic,” and provides fodder for his appeal with specific reasons to address.

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