Mexico: A court ruling in favor of age identity

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Duración lectura: 3m. 32s.
Suprema Corte de la Nación, México

Jalisco. — On December 3, the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled it defends the right to change one’s date of birth on official documents according to the feelings and internal experience of citizens. The Court used terms such as “personal truth” and “social reality” as relatively independent concepts of one’s biological reality.

Based on the Court’s arguments, the ruling is yet another in line with what it calls the “free development of one’s personality,” a concept already used in previous cases related to name and sex changes, abortion, same sex marriage, recreational marijuana, and no-fault divorce.

It is important to clarify that the cases that gave rise to the Court’s age-related criteria are not directly related to the ruling. Rather, they deal with situations where people who, because of an error in the birth registration system, had two birth certificates with different dates of birth, yet they were only aware of one of them. In such cases, according to the Court, the information that these individuals had and had used throughout their lives should be considered true, since their identities had been largely built on this information, despite it not coinciding with the person’s biological reality. For this reason, the Court concluded that in this type of situation, “individual truth” and “social reality” should be prioritized over biological evidence, since there’s a dynamic dimension to identity that is dependent on individuals’ decisions and their behavior in society.

The ruling is reasonable in relation to these specific cases. It would indeed be very problematic and potentially prejudicial for an adult, despite living their entire life presenting themselves with a given name and date of birth (backed by official documents), be forced to change these key aspects of their identity after discovering that the birth certificate they were aware of contained an error and that another birth certificate with an earlier date exists.

What is problematic about the ruling is not the solution it offers for these cases but rather the arguments used to back it. The Court uses the same line of argument as in its ruling on changes in sex, in which the concepts of “gender identity” and “gender expression” are understood as fluid and arbitrary individual decisions, which can change and depend entirely on people’s feelings, regardless of the biological reality.

What is problematic about the ruling is not the solution it offers for the specific case, but the arguments used to back it

The Court goes so far as to affirm that the official birth registration documents must coincide with the internal experience of individuals, and defends the right to change the documents when a person has consistently and publicly behaved differently than the information contained therein.

The Court goes back to doing philosophy

It is absurd to consider age as a personal decision for many reasons. In addition to the biological and anthropological reasons, think about how problematic this would prove to be when dealing with practical matters such as retirement pensions, pedophilia, or aids for the elderly. Although identity is built over time, there is an objective basis that cannot be changed according to an individual’s preferences.

The Court’s argument could have been applied as an exception to the majority of cases, given the unusual circumstances of the people involved and how problematic it would be for them to resolve their situation otherwise. But the Court decided to rule in a general way on highly debatable anthropological and moral issues, such as the meaning of “identity” and the jurisdiction of our personal decisions when it comes to defining it. Topics on which there is no consensus even within the most specialized sectors.

Although the Supreme Court’s intention doesn’t appear to be directly focused on this type of case, due to the argumentation it uses, it’s sparked a great deal of controversy on social networks and within the legal sector, as it seems to leave the door open for age to be interpreted as yet another construct, dependent on the arbitrary decisions of individuals and not on biological reality, implying the existence of something similar to “trans-age” or a right to define one’s own “age identity”.

 

Juan Pablo Andrade Rojas
Lawyer and university professor

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