Freedom or free-for-all?

“Today we can choose our work, gender, political and sexual orientation. We even have the right to change our name. Why do we not have the right to change our age?” asks Ratelband.

Elderly couple (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Elderly couple (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
It has come to pass. The next step in the choose-your-own-reality revolution, which I jokingly hypothesized would happen in a recent blog post. A 69-year-old man in the Netherlands has asked a Dutch court to shave two decades off his age and legally change it to 49. 
“I feel young and I want it legalized,” declares Emile Ratelband. Like many seniors, he faces an uphill battle on the dating scene and in the professional world (he’s a motivational speaker and consultant), and says he feels “abused, aggrieved, and discriminated against” in many situations. 
Ratelband has undertaken this quest in all seriousness. Turned down by local government, he filed a lawsuit and says he’ll appeal if he loses, which seems likely. Whether he’s motivated by genuine conviction or is sardonically attempting to unmask the inconsistency of the choice-is-king movement (let’s call it “choicism”) remains unclear. But either way, his petition highlights the absurdity of the current trend of allowing individuals to impose their subjective identities onto official identification records. 
In the US, New York City recently became the fifth jurisdiction to allow people to eschew male and female categories and instead choose “Gender X” – for themselves or their offspring – on birth certificates; meanwhile, three states and Washington, DC allow gender-neutral driver licenses. Many similar laws are sure to hit the books as the movement takes hold. (Cleverly, however, one Massachusetts legislator managed to shaft a proposed “Gender X” driver license bill in that state by demanding that it include a long list of other gender identities, pointing out that Facebook offers more than 70 options. The head-spinning array includes gender-fluid, pangender, non-binary, gender-free, and dozens more.) 
If people can change their identity points based upon subjective feelings, which are inherently subject to change, might some not want to do so again a week, a month, or a year later? Should there be any limit to the number or scope of permitted changes? 
“Today we can choose our work, gender, political and sexual orientation. We even have the right to change our name. Why do we not have the right to change our age?” asks Ratelband, the Dutch petitioner. Why not indeed, and why stop there?
Let’s hope that Israel, which prides itself on protecting gay rights, does not fall down the rabbit hole of identity chaos. As Israelis know exceedingly well, government-issued IDs are meant to be objective records to facilitate law enforcement and security checks, voting, population records, funding allocations and other important public purposes. What use is a database of information based upon people’s subjective feelings, whether regarding their gender, age, even physical appearance – because surely some folks soon will request to have the hair or eye color, height, or weight listed on their ID changed to reflect their alter-physique rather than their actual features?
The trouble with the Left’s big ideas is that, taken to their logical conclusions, they yield untenable outcomes, much like pouring too much laundry detergent into the washing machine leads not to cleaner clothes but to residue-laced garments and an overflow of suds – a mess that can be hard to clean up. The use of plural “they” and “them” pronouns for individuals who do not identify as either male or female (a practice I’ve seen even in this newspaper) is one such confusing result that will create greater confusion the more widespread it becomes. It might also impinge on the freedom of others. A Christian professor at an Ohio university is suing his employers after being disciplined for refusing to call a transgender student by the pronouns she (or he) requested. 
None of the issues I’ve raised here is expressly religious, although the values driving them are. Without God, morality is nothing more than a mass of sand that shifts with each passing wave. 
Kudos to the would-be Peter Pan in the Netherlands. He may be off his rocker, but his lawsuit writes a revealing chapter in the mushrooming “choicism” movement. 
The writer is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a J.D. from Fordham Law School and has worked as a court attorney and a magazine editor. A former New Yorker, she now lives with her family in Jerusalem.