Clarity and Inclusivity in English Pronoun Usage

I've just encountered an interesting point of confusion between my writing and its reception by readers that I thought it might be useful to discuss. In a recent blog entry, I defaulted to the feminine, third-person pronoun when discussing an animal because I wasn't certain of the animal's sex and didn't want to use the gender-neutral 'it' for reasons having to do with my vegan ethics. This created some confusion in my readership, so I subsequently footnoted the relevant passage to indicate that my usage was a default preference and not a specific gender identification.

I often default to the feminine pronoun and list the feminine first when I need to offer pronoun options (e.g., her/him, hers/his). Failing the widespread adoption of a gender-neutral pronoun that doesn't reduce the referent of the pronoun to an 'it', women and non-cisgendered persons are left with the masculine pronoun as a default. This means that in the mind of the reader or listener 'he' might refer to anyone, while 'she' always refers to a woman and neither expresses the range of gender a handy neutral pronoun might serve. Accepting this paradigm accepts what it implies, that men are the default, women are not and persons not served by either pronoun are not served at all. My pronoun usage is something of a rebellion against that, and I think of the confusion it sometimes causes as an opportunity to balance things a bit.

Still, for the sake of inclusivity, I might start using the invented 'zhe' when I need a default, or perhaps even the Swedish 'hen'. Of course, then I'll be using words that aren't common in the English language at all. But I'm a writer. I get to do that sometimes.