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21 Mar, 2019 03:54

Feeling too old for this sh** yet? Bioethicist makes ‘moral case’ for trans-ageism

Feeling too old for this sh** yet? Bioethicist makes ‘moral case’ for trans-ageism

For those who find trans-racialism too pedestrian, a Finnish researcher has attempted to outline a moral case for “trans-ageism,” publishing a paper in support of those who would legally change their age to match their “identity.”

Joona Räsänen claims that there are three situations in which trans-ageism is acceptable – though his reasoning raises more questions than it answers:

1) the person genuinely feels his age differs significantly from his chronological age and 2) the person’s biological age is recognized to be significantly different from his chronological age and 3) age change would likely prevent, stop or reduce ageism, discrimination due to age, he would otherwise face.”

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So far, the only person to attempt trans-ageism is Emile Ratelband, the Dutch man who petitioned last year to have 20 years shaved off his age so he can more easily find a job – and a girlfriend. Räsänen considers it unfair that the would-be time-traveler wasn’t given a fair shot at achieving his dream.

While acknowledging there is such a thing as a “chronological age” – “the length of time that each particular person has existed” – Räsänen claims this does not necessarily match their “biological age,” and that a disparity between the two – to say nothing of “psychological age” – is cause for a legal age change.

Räsänen does address a few possible “objections” to the idea of legal age changes, though some of them make even less sense than the concept itself, such as “age change is expensive for society” (due to the cost of testing a person’s biological function to ensure that, while their birth certificate says they’re 80, they’re really a spry young 60 on the inside). When he does address the logical argument – if we permit age change, what’s to stop us permitting height change, for example? – he proceeds to tie himself in knots. Untangle them, if you dare:

It is true that people might also be discriminated against due to their height, and the avoidance of discrimination would thus form a prima facie argument for height change. However, while there is a categorical difference between biological age and chronological age, there are no such categories with height. Legal height corresponds with biological height, and obviously, there is no chronological height so the argument presented here does not imply allowing height change.”

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Räsänen then realizes that someone might prefer to identify as a different height in order to render himself capable of performing tasks only tall people can do – reach things on high shelves, perhaps – and thus “height change might be worth considering as well.”

His goal seems to be to “prevent, stop, or reduce ageism,” though it’s unclear how legally permitting the elderly to reclassify themselves as youthful is an easier means to that end than, say, working to change negative perceptions of old age.

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When the College Fix tested Räsänen’s moral theories by asking whether legalized age changes might not enable pedophiles – say, by allowing a 40-year-old man to pretend he’s seven – he responded that “it is unethical for two eight-year-olds to have sex with each other,” so the pedophile would still be morally in the wrong – but acknowledged that upper and lower age limits might have to be adopted for his plan to work.

Helen Buyniski

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