Originally Posted by HarryT
But no speaker of Spanish (or French, or German, or Italian) would think that grammatical gender has anything whatsoever to do with "natural" gender. It's totally separate. A young lady ("Fraulein") in German, for example, is a neuter noun, and you use the pronoun "it", not "her" to refer to a Fraulein, but that doesn't mean that Fraulein's aren't physically female.
Yes, but "Fräulein" is hardly used anymore since it's considered sexist (because it shows the marital status of the woman). Fräulein was only used for unmarried women, no matter if they were 20 or 80.
The same (neuter noun, it) is true for "girl" (Mädchen). We know that a girl is female, of course.
Still we struggle with the similar problems. We currently use "er" (he) and "man" or jemand (for someone), but people are not really happy with that, either.
In the 90s women started to use "frau" instead of "man" because man resembles "Mann" (man) and they wanted to show that a woman (Frau) could also do it, not only a man (Mann). But that was considered rather over the top.
In German it's even more complicated. We have male and female versions of words like "friend". Female friend is "Freundin", male friend is "Freund". And if you were trying to write a note to your friends, male and female, you could either write "liebe Freudinnen, liebe Freunde" or "liebe FreundInnen"... which is awkward...
We often use "er oder sie" (he or she) which is awkward, too. But the use of something similar to the singular they has been seen, too, though rather rarely.
All in all nothing has been agreed upon in German, either.
As a non native English speaker I quite like the singular they and have seen it so often that I never thought that it was not already considered to be "standard".