One situation that we have all encountered at some point in our lives is the gender neutral pronoun. It could have been an effort to keep a jealous partner from becoming suspicious. It could have been an attempt to avoid awkward questions from peers about a new love interest. We have all referred to a person in neutral terms to avoid gender disclosure.
I used to catch my ex girlfriend doing this all the time. She would say something like, “I had lunch with a friend,” and I would know she meant a male friend. If she had lunch with a female friend she would say, “I had lunch with Kim.” Kim is not a friend. Kim is Kim. Saying “a friend” is a method of selective disclosure, also known as lying through omission. There was something there that she didn’t want me to know. “A friend” is “a guy.” Just for fun I would play along. “Oh really… what did you two have to eat?” She would say, “I had a salad and they had a panini.” Nice try. You were out with one person. It was “a friend” not “a few friends.” They didn’t eat anything. It is either a “he” or a “she…” unless they are transgender, in which case the acceptable pronoun is the one which they personally identify with.
What she was doing was using a pleural pronoun as a singular pronoun. “They” typically refers to a group of people in the third person. “They went shopping.” That’s me telling a story about something that a few people did. When used as a singular pronoun, “they” is referring to one person, whose gender your speaker chooses not to reveal.
It happens between the guys as well. “What are you up to this weekend, bro?” (…because all guys call each other “bro). “Not much, just going to meet someone for a few drinks.” Oh really? Someone. Another way to hide gender. It is safe to assume that “someone” is a girl he met on Tinder and he is not sure if he wants to bring her around just yet. Have some fun with it. Ask a follow-up question. “Did you two have fun?” He may say, “Yes, we had a good time.” Another neutral pronoun. We. That means “me” and “it.” You still have no idea if it’s a male or a female. You can try to pry… “Have I met this person?” That puts them (haha) in a corner. Now you’re gender-neutral too. Your friend will either have to say, “No, you don’t know her,” or stick with his obscurities.
The best thing to do is be honest. If you’re meeting a girl who you don’t know well, tell your friends that you want to get to know her before you bring her around. If you’re having lunch with someone of the opposite sex, tell your partner about it. Using gender neutral pronouns only arouses more suspicion than the truth. Be direct in your communication. “I’m going to meet an old friend for lunch. I haven’t seen her in a while and I’m excited to catch up.” Your partner will probably say, “Cool, thanks for letting me know. Have fun.”
Then you and they can have a nice lunch.