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Gender-neutral emoji are coming! Well, okay, if you have an iPhone, you’ve already got them. But if you’ve got an Android phone (like 86.2% of smartphone users), they’re coming in the next couple months. In fact, if you’ve got certain Android devices, you’ve got them already. Let’s take a look.
The new emoji are part of the new Android P Beta update to the Android operating system. The update brings 157 new emoji, including a few updates. The biggest update, however, is the addition of gender-neutral emoji for concepts like “family” and “couple with heart.”
Before disingenuous conservative trolls start their attacks: No, we’re not losing any “heterosexual” emoji.
While the new gender-neutral emoji are being added, they’re an additional option, not a replacement. Prior to this update, the emoji now labelled “Couple With Heart: Woman, Man” and “Family: Man, Woman Boy” used to be the only relationship images. Now, they’re just an option you can choose alongside a male same-sex couple, a female same-sex couple and a gender neutral couple.
The designs in the gender-neutral versions feature two people with short, slightly different hairstyles. (And, hey, straights: If you feel offended or left out, you can just pretend the gender neutral person is just a short-haired woman.)
The move to gender-neutral emoji is nothing new, even on Android. Emoji guidelines as developed by the Unicode Consortium, the international body that chooses which proposed emoji become real, says if an emoji isn’t described with a specified gender (i.e. “Couple With Heart: Woman, Man”), a gender-neutral design should be used.
In the early days of Android, emojis didn’t have any gender at all — they didn’t even look human. Until 2017, Android emoji were yellow blobs, closer to Pac-Man or the Mr. Men than actual humans. As displays increased in quality, emoji designers gradually used more detail. Thus, the blobs were phased out and replaced by emoji that actually look like people.
In addition to the gender-neutral emoji, Google has also replaced the original “Dagger” emoji with a more fantasy-inspired dagger with sparkles and a jewel, removed the egg from their “Green Salad” and changed the “Pistol” from a real gun to a super-soaker. (Less controversial changes include making the “Cricket” emoji actually look like a cricket rather than a grasshopper.)
Likewise, Android has added variations for different types of hair, including redheads, curly hair, grey hair and no hair.