Can male writers write female leads? If they’re worth their salt as writers they can and from Lewis Carroll to Philip Pullman they have. And lets not forget Roald Dahl as a fabulous writer of young female protagonists from The magic finger to the BFG (yes I broke the sacred rule and started a sentence with a conjunction).
Writers with any talent should be able to write protagonists despite their gender not restricted from writing about them because of their gender. There is no great difference between the genders except for the largely socially constructed ones that are soon destroyed by a dispassionate analysis of the scientific and social evidence. Sure genes and hormones have some influence on gender/sex (for simplicity I’ll use the two interchangeably for now) but they have the minority stake.
Writers should be able to write people and lets face it our common fears, loves, desires and needs that unite us are much greater than the things that separate us. In short a writer should be able to extract the humanity within a character and build the social and physical restraints of gender around that precept.