No one clear correct approach has yet evolved in our culture to those awkward moments when you find yourself in conversation with a person with a mixed or unreadable gender presentation. But, until our language and social mores catch up with our evolving reality, you do have some common-sense options. If a person seems to you to be aiming for a certain gender, regardless of how well or badly you think they are carrying it off, the apparent target gender is a polite first guess. And, when in doubt, feel free to ask politely. You could do a lot worse than, "I'm getting into the habit, when meeting new people, of mentioning which gender pronouns I prefer, and asking others the same. So, I prefer (fill in the blank) pronouns . . . and you?"
Lisa Bunker blogs about gender at genderbendy.com, and can be reached email@example.com.
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