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Castor and the Olympics — I will cheer

Human beings are incredibly wonderful and complex things and we just don’t lend ourselves to being categorized with such broad brush strokes anymore-which makes many people very uncomfortable. We like things simple and easy to digest (Hilary is a liar/Muslims are terrorists/People on welfare are lazy) and have far too much on our minds to give much thought to gender because that’s the one thing we’ve always known to be true. Either you “are” or you “aren’t”.

Science is telling us that male/female is less about a binary state than where one falls on a sliding scale. Yes, the vast majority of people fall heavily on one end or the other, but some do not. ALL olympic athletes also fall heavily on the outer edge of extreme of other scales that can be used to measure them. NONE of them are “normal” in the sense that they possess genetic advantages that none of us could ever overcome to compete at their level. When I was 13, I was convinced I was going to be an Olympic athlete in the decathlon. When I was 16 I realized that it could never happen. Not for lack of effort or training or even skill, but just because my genetic lottery came up 1 number short.

The closest analogy I can come up with will no doubt irritate some — please come up with a better one — but it’s almost like categorizing people by skin color. Sure, “white” and “black” are often easy to differentiate, but I can look at my own two mixed race boys and realize it’s not so simple. Both are 1/2 Indonesian and 1/2 Caucasian. Are they “white”? If you saw them, you would swear that one of them was 100% white and the other one might split opinions. Is Michael Phelps a man? Sure looks like it. Line up all the women competing at the games in your own mind from “most” feminine to “least” and I’ll wager that everybody’s results would be different. Different ideas of beauty, different ideas of feminine that really mean “who looks like she belongs to my tribe?”

Is it “fair” for Castor to compete against other “women”? I dunno really—what does “fair” actually mean? It does seem to me that trying to force a binary world view on every athlete is going to be more and more difficult moving forward. Are we going to try and split hairs ever finer? Who is going to be disqualified because a particular test shows someone to be .01% over an arbitrary limit? Why is going to benefit because they come in .01% under?