Emile Ratelband is following a sad tradition of men pulling presposterous stunts to undermine the LGBT community. He should not be humoured
Ellie Mae O’Hagan
Tue 13 Nov 2018
Last week, Stonewall published a report that found that more than one in 10 trans people have attempted to take their own lives in the past year, and nearly half of all trans people have considered it. This indicates a mental health crisis that is at epidemic levels within the trans community, so I’d say it’s a good thing that many countries have decided to take small measures to make it a little easier for trans people to be true to their gender identities.
And yet, as the stage invasion during Britain’s performance at this year’s Eurovision demonstrates: when something nice happens, there’s always some bore determined to ruin it. In May, the bore in question was David Lewis – a man who claimed to be “a woman on Wednesdays”, and who tried to become a Labour women’s officer to object to the party’s trans-inclusive policies. This month, that role of bore has been taken up by one Emile Ratelband, a Dutch man who has petitioned the courts to allow him to identify as 20 years younger than his age of 69, on the grounds – among other things – that it would yield him more matches on Tinder. Ratelband told 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.” Thus suggesting that gender is a matter of choice.
These cases are but two in a rather sad tradition of men pursuing frivolous lawsuits that undermine LGBT rights: in March of this year, the anti-LGBT activist Chris Sevier attempted to marry his laptop in protest against the introduction of equal marriage in Utah (the case was dismissed on the grounds that the laptop was not legally old enough). That the phenomenon of the male egomaniac remains a fact of life is unfortunate. And one of the downsides of attempting to maintain a free society is that preposterous stunts such as these must occasionally be indulged in public courts. And yet it is frustrating that the British media has leapt upon Ratelband’s shenanigans as though they are newsworthy, describing him straightforwardly as a “pensioner”, taking his justifications at face value.
Instead, the hot take machine has been duly cranked up, and producers have been soliciting pundits to appear on the airwaves to debate whether changing one’s age is in fact the same as changing one’s gender. Even a cursory Googling reveals that one premise of Ratelband’s decision is nonsense: people are already able to conceal their ages on Tinder simply by upgrading to a paid version – a much cheaper and more discreet solution than a lawsuit that makes international headlines. But, of course, worldwide brouhaha was the entire point of this silly exercise, as Ratelband is in fact one of the Netherlands’ most notorious trolls – as Dutch social media users have desperately been trying to tell anyone who will listen.
Years ago, Ratelband was rebuffed by Dutch courts after attempting to name his twins Rolls and Royce. In 2003, he attempted to found a political movement named The Ratelband List, which failed to win a single seat. Little is available online about this wee venture, although he attended the unveiling of a statue in honour of the late far-right politician Pim Fortuyn. Unsurprising, then, that Ratelband also used his Washington Post interview as an opportunity to praise Donald Trump, observing: “Trump is the first one who is honest. He shows his emotion on Twitter, saying to everyone, ‘Shut up.’ He’s a new kind of person.” At the time of writing, more than 51,000 Twitter users follow Ratelband’s account, which describes him as a “motivational speaker” and is littered with wellbeing quackery and faux-spiritual absurdities.