The battle for queer equality isn’t being fought with protests, landmark legal cases, or film roles, dummy. The fight for queer representation is happening in the emoji section of your smartphone keypad.
Fast Company reported this week that Google will release 53 new emojis this month, all representing nonbinary people. They’ll be tested in beta before becoming available on all Google phones — sorry, iPhone users, gender isn’t over for you yet!
The development team designed the emojis in a way that wouldn’t suggest one gender or another, giving them unisex accessories like a chain necklace, and hairstyles that don’t appear to masculine or feminine. There’s also a “merperson” with their hands crossed over their chest where breasts or pecs would be.
“There’s no singular way of getting it right. Gender is complicated,” Google designer Jennifer Daniel told Fast Company. “It is an impossible task to communicate gender in a single image. It’s a construct. It lives dynamically on a spectrum. I personally don’t believe there is one visual design solution at all, but I do believe to avoid it is the wrong approach here.
“We can’t avoid race, gender, any other number of things in culture and class. You have to stare it in the face to understand it. That’s what we’re trying to do – to [find] the signifiers that make something feel either male or female, or both male and female.”
As the nonbinary emojis currently only exist on Google phone, if they’re sent to an iPhone or Android, they’ll be arbitrarily converted into a male or female version — in 2019, even emojis get misgendered. Sigh.