I don’t have many hard and fast rules that are eternal and always applicable to every moment in my life. But there are a FEW, and this is sincerely one of the only permanent things I uphold in my personal and professional interactions with humans at all times.
My personal rule for ALL interactions with anyone that I even slightly, possibly, or totally know and understand to be trans: I NEVER make assumptions, under any circumstances, about gender or status or pronouns. I never fill in my own blanks or make assumptions, no matter what I know, believe, have been taught, and/or see with my own two eyes.
I have certain understandings, my own observations, my own thoughts and perspectives, of course. But I do NOT make assumptions or leap to conclusions about things that I don’t fully see or know.
There are many times I totally do NOT know what gender someone is, because I never fully got to that point in the conversation with them, and I don’t know exactly how they define their self, but I can sincerely sense they do not fall on any regular space on the binary spectrum as “man” or “woman,” and they prefer it that way.
I feel androgynous and beyond the singular trajectory of the simple he-she identity sometimes, and I want to always have that freedom to express my energy in a variety of ways on a number of levels of life. I also recognize that others might and WILL want to do things their own way as well, and I am happy to give people the open safe space to do as much identity shifting and blurring as they want to.
I am mentally, physically, emotionally, intellectually and sexually interested and invested in interacting with individuals whose interests align with my intentions. That’s the reason why society makes boxes of race and gender and age and class etc. for people, so if they meet someone “outside the box,” they can somehow categorize them relatively quickly and efficiently which reduces comprehension of the complexity of cultures and actual nature, not heteronormative neurotypical monogamous existence.
We are randomly floating on the outside of those edges of life, and when we encounter people who are erasing the aspects of identity that society likes to trace around everyone, we must respect the self-erasure and not fill in our own (mis)understanding. It’s not just for the sake of avoiding a tongue lashing from offended trans folks that don’t like being misgendered, but also about not being ignorant of the reality in our world today.
So yes, let someone tell you who they are before you assume. And if they never tell you, then you may never know! And it’s just another one of the beautiful mysteries of life.