I've been a fan of Hemingway and Orwell for as long as I can remember. Both of them believed, above all, in clear, direct, and accurate language.
(Hemingway spent the first two years of his life dressed as a girl by his bisexual mother; that has nothing to do with anything I'm about to say below. But it helps explain why he, and his gender politics, have over the past 20 years or so, become a subject of considerable interest to an academic world that had dismissed him over the previous several decades for being Mr. Masculinist. Now we know that he was MUCH more interesting than that.)
In any case, I'm going to speak as clearly, directly, and accurately as I can.
The subject of Caster fascinates us and gets under our skin because she, and the entire category of what might be called gender-bending or gender-problematic athletes, thoroughly unsettles at least three core values of the running community and the contemporary world within which competitive running culture currently sits:
1) the idea of self-determination.
2) the idea of a clear division between men and women in local, national, and international competition, with firmly demarcated boundaries specifically designed to protect the category "female athletes" from unfair competition tied directly to the advantages that accrue to the bodies possessed by male athletes, bodies advantaged in a range of structural and hormonal ways that translate pretty directly into faster times, higher and longer throws and jumps, etc.
3) the idea of fair play, which transcends gender divisions and undergirds every other element of athletic competition: an honorable, decent, hopefully voluntarily willingness to give up "unfair advantage."
Caster and her advocates argue:
1) that gender is self-determined: you are who you say you are, and people need to respect that
2) that the idea of strictly demarcated gender boundaries is a premodern concept; that there's much more fluidity within the concept "man" and "woman" than fusty old-school reactionaries know; and that this fluidity actually contributes to the validity of the "you are who you say you are" concept articulated in 1)
3) [Caster and her advocates completely finesse the issue of fair play. They don't really address it. They're too busy applauding Caster's victories and seeing them--illogically--as validation of 1) and 2)]
Both 1) and 2), in the arguments of Caster & friends, rest on what I believe is bad logic. Here's how I see the three points:
1) Caster is an intersex athlete who claims to be a female athlete because s/he was raised to think of herself as female.
2) the idea of strictly demarcated gender boundaries IS, in fact, a premodern concept. We need to come out of the cave and understand that, at minimum, a third category, intersex, must not just be fully acknowledged and embraced, without mockery, but must have a space created for it (the category, not the athletes! they're people!) within national and international competitions, if not necessarily within local competitions. If that space can't be created as a series of separate intersex races that take place in a sequenced way within such competitions, then intersex athletes, acknowledged and celebrated as such--rather than masquerading as male or (especially) female athletes--must be allowed to complete within an open category (formerly the men's category), and must be given intersex trophies commensurate with their finishing position vis a vis other intersex athletes competing in those events. Lots of details to be worked out, obviously! But that's where I think we should head.
3) Right now, allowing unmedicated intersex and trans athletes to compete in women's races represents not just a failure of the fair-play ideal--and the great majority of competitive athletes, male and female, get this both instinctively and rationally--but a betrayal of precisely the demand that we acknowledge the full diversity of gender identities and sexual orientations. Self-styled progressives don't realize just how reactionary THEY are being when they insist a) that we RETAIN a strictly binary male/female structure within competitive athletes, even while simultaneously demanding b) that we allow someone who plainly exposes the problematics of that binary division--i.e., Caster and other intersex and trans athletes--to race in the female division, merely because she (and they) say they belong there. No. Actually we all need to grow up and create a third division, one that gets us beyond old-fashioned binaries.