Why I stepped aside from the Transgender Flag Emoji group and why the Transgender Flag is not a part of the new version of Emoji

  • The transgender flag proposal, submitted to Unicode based on the implementation of the Rainbow Flag was rejected without sufficient explanation.
  • Unicode has not communicated sufficiently to the group working on the Transgender Flag Emoji proposal, with a radio silence of more than a year.
  • I stepped aside from the group as zero feedback from the Unicode consortium felt hostile and I think they have their heads up their own arses, which gets nobody anywhere.

While I have been evaluating my volunteering projects in the past half a year and stepping away from some so I can concentrate on my full-time job, my relationships and friendships, my work with the group that has submitted technical proposals for the Transgender Flag Emoji is something that has generally laid still for long periods of time and has in fact not taken much time away from me, aside from the initial work of writing the technical bits of the proposal

A couple of months ago, I stepped aside from that group. Not because the work was too hard or I didn’t enjoy working with the amazing people who stand behind it — but because of Unicode’s absolute lack of transparency towards non-members that submit proposals.

I was the one person within the group that didn’t want to openly support other groups promoting the inclusion of the transgender flag, such as the one that promoted the lobster emoji as a replacement.

I assumed it was just a question of time before our proposal would either be accepted by the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) or we would get some feedback before the final deadline for inclusion so we would be able to fix the ongoing issues as we were following Unicode’s guidelines by the book.

I was the person who said we should wait for feedback from the UTC. That we should trust them to communicate any deal-breaking issues.

The reality of the matter is we waited for more than a year for any response. And that was a simple rejection. No specific feedback — just an F on the exam without further comments.

I can’t work under this absolute lack of communications from Unicode as this feels like weaponized bureaucracy and that is why I stepped aside left the project in the hand of the rest of the amazing team.

It is incredible that we had to find feedback from insiders elsewhere. It would have been amazing to have been able to use that feedback in order to fix the proposal, as it revealed things that may have been missing, overdone or confusing.

At the same time as we were waiting, the UTC has been prioritising things such as re-classifying marine animals as “seafood”, adding emoji such as a waffle, a ball of falafel and several versions of “people holding hands”; which does not include people of non-determined gender (non-binary, agender etc.) holding hands with men or women.

Most of the new emoji include some level of inclusion for disabled people, which is a very positive thing, but it is sad not to see our proposal as a part of this wave of inclusion.

As I trusted Unicode at the time to have more openness about our proposal, I can’t do anything but think that there’s something more behind this than just technical issues — possibly transphobia — either active or passive.

Our proposal was based on precedent set by the Rainbow Flag and is simply the ZWJ combination of 🏳 + ⚧. It’s nothing overly revolutionary and does not require a new Unicode codepoint, just a specification of how to glue two of them together to form a single image.

For anyone wishing to contact the group, please refer to the media contacts listed in Ted’s original statement at https://www.tedeytan.com/transemoji. I’d be happy to respond to Icelandic media, but for everyone else, please contact Olly, Bianca and Tea.

(The image included was blatantly stolen from Ted’s Flickr. I didn’t ask him for permission.)

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