Should your birth certificate show your true age or how old you claim you feel? That’s the focus of a new court case.
Every now and then, I read a news story that I immediately dismiss as a joke. But the recent story out of Amsterdam where a man is fighting for a change on his birth certificate to change his age isn’t a joke after all.
The man claims he feels much younger than his 69 years, which is, of course, admirable.
He also says he wants to avoid being a victim of ageism, and therefore wants to change his birthdate to establish that he was born in March 1969 instead of March 1949.
I was born in 1969. I wouldn’t mind having people believe I was born in 1989.
But I don’t look like I was born in 1989, and with all respect to the petitioner, he doesn’t exactly look like he’s my age.
Still, I was struck by a quote he gave the Washington Post:
“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.”
I knew the transgender debate would enter into this.
But I really think this is trying to compare apples to oranges.
Women change their names all the time when they get married. Some men do as well now. Children’s names are changed upon adoption.
There are valid reasons people change their names. Therefore, there are valid reasons people need to change their names on legal documents.
One’s gender absolutely can change. There are those who insist that your birth certificate should reflect the gender into which you were born. But one who has gender-reassignment physically is no longer that gender.
And as much as the deniers may balk at the idea, there are cases in which a baby is born with physiological elements of both genders and the standard procedure has been that a gender was “selected” and procedures were done to essentially line everything up within that selection.
It’s difficult — nearly impossible, it seems — for some people to comprehend that there are those among us who truly feel they were born into the wrong gender.
I’m a guy. I was born as a guy and I feel like a guy. So I’ve never had to spend a great deal of time contemplating what my gender means or how much it seems to fit me. At the same time, I can at least understand that for some people, that’s not the case.
I don’t have to be in that boat to at least have a limited sense of what they’re going through. Just like there are heterosexuals among us who have no “curiosity” about the same-sex yet still understand that to homosexuals, their sexual orientation is as “natural” to them as opposite-gender attraction is to heterosexuals.
In many cases, you don’t have to be something to sympathize with someone who actually is in that situation.
There are those who feel they should be the opposite gender and identify as such, but, for one valid reason or another, isn’t able to actually complete a formal gender reassignment. Those people would like to be able to have their legal documents, including their birth certificate and driver’s license, reflect that gender.
I’ll be honest: while I can understand someone who feels they should have been born into the opposite gender, I can’t really wrap my mind around this “gender-fluid” concept. That, to me, makes little sense. From a sexual orientation standpoint, I feel the same way about those who identify as “bisexual.”
But my life experience puts me in a position where, to me, it feels like it should be simple to be one or the other, not either or both, depending on your mood when you wake up in the morning.
If I had ever felt that way, I’m sure I’d understand it better. But we all have our limitations based on our own understanding of our world as we live in it.
But age is a different matter.
We should all be able to agree that names can be changed.
If you can’t acknowledge the same thing about gender, perhaps we can agree to disagree on that issue for a moment and skip ahead.
No matter what name you had at birth that you may or may not have, and no matter which gender you were born into that may no longer apply, there was, in fact, a specific moment in time at which you were actually born.
That doesn’t change.
Some people do actually feel younger than their actual age. Some people feel older than they really are. In some cases, I think that has a lot to do with how good or bad a week you’ve had.
But if you’re 45 and you’ve been working a lot of overtime over the course of a year, does that really mean you’re entitled to jump your age up to 50 on legal documents? Of course not: you were still born 45 years ago.
As for the part about wanting to prevent age discrimination, that’s a valid concern.
But you battle that by voting out lawmakers who allow it to continue and replacing them with lawmakers who’ll fight even harder to prevent discrimination of any kind.
Age may be just a number, but when it comes to legal documents, that’s one number that shouldn’t be adjusted just because someone feels like it.