Most people don't seem to be bothered by our lack of neutral pronouns, but I can certainly say they have frustrated me as both a writer and a feminist for some time. You almost cannot speak about a person without knowing or revealing their gender even when it is entirely irrelevant! If I want to talk about one of my friend possessions, I don't see why I need to specify that that friend is female or male: "It's her car" or "It's his watch". My friend's car and watch still belong to them regardless of what gender they are so why do we have to specify it?
It just highlights how gender-obsessed our society is that we have to form our sentences that way. A good friend of mine has said before they "like to fuck with people" by neglecting to identify the gender of their friends when they talk about them. I find myself fighting with the language to write natural-sounding but gender-neutral advice, especially when the advice is romantic or sexual. I use the word partner and have to pay a lot of attention of my phrasing so things don't sound clunky. I have to do that because I don't always know the gender of the person I am addressing or the gender of their partner - because of course I cannot deduce the gender of the partner by knowing the gender of the person being addressed.
Many people make due with the so-called singular form of the plurals they, their & them (as I did above) and when that gets too awkward switch to the gendered form. But really, that is quite a shoddy fix, as evidenced by an example provided here:
A person was down at the river bank withdrawing some polliwogs for their froggery, when they heard branches snapping nearby, and saw a creature creeping towards them from out of the forest. [...] They fell backward in terror, and it stopped, a monstrous menacing mound of mobile vegetables. More crashings were heard from the forest, and two more creatures appeared above them on either side. The first creature spoke [...] "One should not take the wogs from the river, no no no little meatling. For they are pretty, and we likes to watch them." [...]
With that, they raised their massive arms, each covered with wriggling things like grated carrots gone mad. They were indignant, feeling the polliwogs to be rightfully theirs, but under the circumstances they were not inclined to debate the issue. "No, no!" they cried, "I'll put them back! I'll put them back!" Scrambling over to the water's edge, they carefully deposited each one of them. "Yessssss...." they said, their voices starting as whispers and ending in roars [...]
Other ways around the problem are the use of one, replacing the pronoun with something specific, the use of he/she (or variants like s/he, him or her), the use of he/him/his as neutral, or occasional use of neutral words like person, someone, it.
One, person and someone can work well under some circumstances, but under others you must jump through so many twisted hoops to get it sounding right that you just give up. He/she is fantastically ugly and clunky and it is actually somewhat insulting when used to refer to a person. He, is is argued, served quite well as the neutral pronoun for a long time... the obvious counter argument being that it does no longer and that it probably represents the kind of thinking that was common when it was in use which we have tried very hard to eliminate.
You can often make due by rearranging your statements and combining techniques, but it often takes a conscious effort.
There is a building movement of people who recognize this problem and have proposed a solution: a new artificially crafted set of neutral pronouns. This probably owes a lot to the growing LGBT movement in addition to challenges presented by the anonymity of the Internet. According to a GNP (gender-neutral-pronoun) FAQ there are about 3 sets of new pronouns in use at the moment:
he him his his himself she her her hers herself ________________________________ sie hir hir hirs hirself zie zir zir zirs zirself ey em eir eirs eirself(a few more, as well as "ratings" can be found here.)
I've seen the sie and zie set personally, both online and in some science fiction works. The ey set is new to me.
I dislike the sie set. The pronunciation is ambiguous and some pronunciations make it sound like "her" and "she" which defeats the whole point. "sie" in German means "she" anyway.
An apparently common objection to the zie set is that the letter Z is ugly and English-speakers don't like it. I'm neutral to the the letter myself and don't find that complaint very compelling. Zie has the same problem with ambiguous pronunciation that sie did. (IE does it rhyme with see or eye?)
The ey set is interesting and its origins are easy to see - it's the plural set they, them, their with the "th" dropped. The pronunciation is clear, but when spoken it simply sounds like a colloquial informal version of the plurals. Kind of... redneck-y. I'm fairly certain that if I were to start using a GNP set, it would be the Zie set - which seems to be the most popular form anyway.
The question is whether I could personally do it - I'm not convinced I could get over the gimmicky, baby's first activism-feel of the whole thing. The GNP movement proponents remind me - unfairly, perhaps - of the womyn advocates who annoy me to no end.
It would take a lot of time to get to a point where this comes out naturally:
A good friend of mine has said before zie "likes to fuck with people" by neglecting to identify the gender of zir friends when zie talks about them.but that's not to say that it's not worth the effort.