Why I almost burnt Dave Rubin’s book

In Dave Rubin’s Don’t Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason, Dave argued that with respect to transgender children, “let me present the classically liberal perspective on this issue… Every human being should be free to modify their body however they see fit, but only when they’re an adult… It’s consistent with how we treat all minors who are considered intellectually incapable of reasoned logic. It’s why we don’t allow kids to get tattoos, buy a firearm, and drink alcohol or smoke until they’re a grown-up… Until the former, they must defer to us, the adults who know better.”

He is not being consistently classically liberal here. There are medical treatments out there that children can have access to under parental supervision, which have nothing to do with gender dysphoria, and such treatments “modify their body”. For example, should a child not have access to appendectomy under parental supervision, because the child is not an adult? No one in their right mind would say that children shouldn’t have access to appendectomy to deal with appendicitis, noting that they’re not necessarily fully intellectually capable of the logical reasons for such a procedure. Hopefully the parents are. (To clarify, no one has ever died from not being able to have sex reassignment surgery to my knowledge.)

He claims to not be transphobic here, and he probably isn’t, but you can see how singling out gender dysphoria treatment can paint a different picture. Especially when you compare a medical treatment to tattoos, firearms etc which have nothing to do with medicine. Maybe “we’re now allowing record numbers of young children… to change their gender through invasive surgery and potent puberty blockers” because the parents agree that such treatment is medically appropriate. He’s really painting a picture when he throws words like “invasive” and “potent” around. Last I checked, appendectomy is “invasive” and doctors don’t usually prescribe dosage that would be too “potent” for the patient.

I’m no anti-vaxxer, but to use another example, should we use the power of government to force anti-vaxxer parents to see their children vaccinated despite parental objections? Classical liberals believe in freedom of the individual via limiting/decentralising the power of government. Therefore, classical liberals believe that the State is not the parent of children, that the children’s parents are the parents of said children. I think Dave wrote in the book (or said somewhere else) that he’d like to have children one day. If one of them happens to be trans, I’m sure he’ll really hope then that the government doesn’t interfere with his parenting. Whether he’d be supportive or not is a separate matter, and he’ll just have to live with the consequences of his parenting either way.

This isn’t a ‘gotcha’ moment, since, in the book he continues: “… the depth of a trans woman’s vagina is wholly dependent on the size of her penis, pre-surgery. So if she hasn’t gone through the teenage growth spurt that comes with puberty, then there often won’t be enough tissue for surgeons to work with to create a vagina”. Is Dave implying that trans women can only get their vaginas in adulthood? Earlier on didn’t he write that “we’re now allowing record numbers of young children… to change their gender through invasive surgery…”?

In any case, it’s a good thing, for reasons outlined above, that trans children cannot receive puberty blockers without parental supervision, isn’t it? Like any medication, there are risks and benefits, so again, why is he singling out puberty blockers? Should children who undergo precocious puberty also be singled out for taking “potent puberty blockers”? No doubt there are many factors for parents of trans children to consider, especially given that there are different types of dysphoria. A trans girl who doesn’t have genital dysphoria probably won’t want a vagina in adulthood, but may have body dysphoria instead that could worsen under male puberty. Gender transition does not offer one-size-fits-all because gender dysphoria is more complex than he’s acknowledging. Would you trust the government to manage complex matters?

As for sterility, again, a cost-benefit analysis should be left to parents who know their children better than everyone else. If the dysphoria is so unbearable, is the mental health harm worth it for the ability to have children later on? Why should children have to put up with such harm just because they’re not legally adults? Isn’t that child abuse? The phenomenon of detransition, one of the risks that these parents do consider, is not an excuse to excuse child abuse. One should not downplay the gravity of the situation these children’s parents have on their hands. It’s a luxury to judge from the outside. If in doubt, get out of your comfort zone and talk to these parents.

In light of this, what’s Dave’s best defence? He referred to old studies that study children at random from gender clinics and follow them, only to seemingly find that most aren’t trans when they grow up. Some of these children have a gender dysphoria diagnosis, some just simply identify as trans, and some don’t even identify as trans at all. Of course in these studies where “many children naturally outgrow their gender dysphoria by adulthood”, they’re clearly not suitable candidates for gender transition, and would be disqualified under medical transition guidelines.

For him to then conclude that “this is where a moderate degree of government legislation would act in the individual’s best interests” shows his willingness to not apply classical liberalism consistently. This is disappointing, but in his defence, he is right on the money about other related topics such as forced pronoun speech. This barely stopped me from burning his book, but boy, isn’t it tempting in light of the above.

Dave and I when he toured in Canberra, Australia in February 2019 with Dr Jordan Peterson

On a slight tangent, I came across the following Facebook comment: “People’s religious identities are important as well, even more so than gender identity, considering that they believe deceased loved ones are in heaven, and thus many base their entire lives on their religion, believing that they will join loved ones in eternity. Yet religious people are surrounded by secularism and somehow manage to survive in a world that not only largely doesn’t agree with conservative religious beliefs, but massively criticizes and mocks them, with mainstream academic views of sacred scriptures as fantasy and myth.”

Seeing that my trans ideology is somewhere between religion and science (where exactly ‘somewhere’ is, is a separate debate), the above comment got me thinking: until transgender science is a ‘hard’ (1+1=2 kind of) science, why don’t the woke trans activists just follow the example of many of today’s religious leaders, ie preach, but don’t ram it down people’s throats, keep the faith, live and let live etc?

Of course, many of these activists despise religion, and ironically, they now find themselves in a position somewhat similar to the time when Christianity had reached its peak/s in directly influencing the State. If woke trans activism eventually finds itself where Christianity in the West now finds itself, I wonder if the following situation will occur, and to what extent:

“Yet trans people are surrounded by [insert appropriate word that I can’t think of here] and somehow manage to survive in a world that not only largely doesn’t agree with transgenderism, but massively criticizes and mocks them, with mainstream academia viewing it as fantasy and myth.”

I guess my point is, I’ve seen Christian persecution ebb and flow throughout history, and I’d say that Christians in recent times have been more persecuted in the West than previously. Whilst I think it’s important that trans people should look to how Christians have maintained their resilience throughout history, I also don’t want to see trans people facing history repeating itself.

The previous closeness between Church and State has damaged Christianity in the West in the long run I think. There is a difference between the human condition (whether trans identity or religious thought) and those who ‘lead’ human conditions. Such leaders unfortunately come in a mix bag, and the Catholic Church’s treatment of Galileo Galilei was certainly a shameful ‘flat Earth’ moment that thankfully the modern Church has acknowledged. It appears the woke are heading down a similar path.



Trans ⚧️ and Anglo-catholic ✝️ | Liberal Arts student @notredameaus | phenomenologist | social media content curator | all opinions expressed here are my own

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Dana Pham

Trans ⚧️ and Anglo-catholic ✝️ | Liberal Arts student @notredameaus | phenomenologist | social media content curator | all opinions expressed here are my own