So why, then, did Unicode reject a proposal for a bisexual pride flag emoji for next year’s release?
New emoji are added by a proposal process. Unicode itself doesn’t propose new emoji, the public do. (Though employees of Unicode, as well as employees of Apple and Google, can also submit proposals.) Then the company reviews them and makes the ultimate decision. The review process hinges on , including whether the new emoji would be compatible across different platforms and whether it’d be used frequently. According to Unicode, proposals are considered for the following year’s emoji release.
“Recently, the following new emoji were released: a plunger, an olive, a dodo bird, and a beaver. Notably, the transgender flag was included,” Marino wrote. “Seeing that the powers that be (Unicode; Google, Facebook and Apple are members) finally were open to inclusive representation, a bisexual flag emoji was proposed — and rejected, for no reason.”
Indeed, Unicode — which hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment — didn’t give Marino a reason for the rejection in their email, which he screenshotted in his blog post.
Jeremy Burge, chief emoji officer at , provided Mashable with some insight. “When it comes to flags and flag emoji, one challenge to overcome is that flags generally aren’t well used as an emoji. At least, not when compared to other emoji like the faces, hand gestures or hearts,” Burge wrote in an email to Mashable. “Viewing on emoji use, flags are consistently some of the least used emoji on the keyboard.”
Burge said that while popularity isn’t the only factor when Unicode assesses proposals, it’s much harder to get approval in a less-used category like flags. Still, he acknowledges that representation is important regardless of numbers. “Understandably, regardless of statistics, people naturally want to see themselves represented on the emoji keyboard, whether that is in human form, or with flags or symbols that represent them,” he said.
And bisexuals do want representation. “I signed the petition because I feel consistently invalidated as a bisexual person,” one anonymous signer told Mashable, “and it would be great to have some representation/recognition! It’s also a lot clearer than using the coloured hearts to signify my bisexuality.”
Others agreed, with commenters on the petition page exclaiming they signed “Because we deserve to be visible!” and because “Representation matters!”
Unfortunately, Unicode doesn’t take petitions into account in their emoji-choosing process. In fact, citing one . (Though, in Marino’s case he submitted his proposal months before creating the petition.)
“I signed the petition because I feel consistently invalidated as a bisexual person.”
Unicode has also to revise the submission form — which may impact the future of not only the bi flag emoji, but other queer flag emoji. Marino told Mashable that the blog ‘s asexual flag proposal was also rejected by Unicode, and that Unicode stated: “At this time, the committee is reviewing our criteria for inclusion regarding flags not representing geographical nations/states.”
Asexuality Archive confirmed this to Mashable, and said that not only did the word “asexual” get caught in their spam folder — making even submitting the proposal a hassle — but also that Unicode suggested using existing emoji to represent the asexual pride flag.
“Unfortunately, the existing set of emoji are missing a gray heart or circle, so it’s impossible to represent the asexual flag in that manner,” Asexuality Archive told Mashable over email.
Burge said it’s hard to say whether there will be more pride flag emoji in the future. “One hypothetical issue with pride flags can be where the line is drawn,” he said. “Country flags are often defined by national bodies, but pride flags are more community-driven where there may be common agreement on the design and meaning of some pride flags, but not others.”
While disappointing to many, this isn’t exactly surprising. Unicode took years to add the trans flag, and it required work by and just like Marino’s. “I’m not letting one rejection stop me,” Asexuality Archive said in terms of their asexual pride flag proposal. “It took something like ten years to get a rainbow flag, and another five for the trans flag. So I’m going to try again next year.”
Burge said the usage of the trans flag emoji in 2021 may impact future proposals. Consistently high usage of one pride flag doesn’t necessarily mean some or all others would also fare as well,” he said, “but it certainly wouldn’t hurt the chances of any potential proposal.”
Asexuality Archive believes the bi pride flag would be used more than some existing emoji. “It would certainly be more heavily used than the recently included Bison emoji, which is apparently only used by fans of a handful of sports teams, mostly clustered in a single country,” they said. “The bi flag would be used by millions of people all around the world.”
Unicode’s process seems to be a tedious one, where statistics matter more than representation. But we’re in a society where , where people aren’t seen by the people in their lives or the media they consume. We deserve to be validated, even if by a pixelated pink, purple, and blue flag.