Representation of gay and lesbian users in Apple's emoji set on the iPhone and iPad is limited to just two same sex couples holding hands, but that's changing thanks to the Lesbian Emojis app from Kimberly Linn. The app's collection of lesbian-themed emoji adds more choices to the little icons we include in our text messages, but also underscores the surprising lack of diversity in Apple's emoji set.
Emoji are the icon-style graphics we can drop into messages and documents. They include smiley faces, hearts, flowers, religion, couples dancing, food, human faces, a smiling pile of poo, and more. Those human faces, however, are almost exclusively white (there's an Asian-ish and brown-ish face), and only the two hand holding emoji for the LGBT community.
Lesbian Emojis adds a little LGBT love and diversity to the iPhone
The free Lesbian Emojis isn't the only app offering LGBT emojis, but it is among a very select few—or couple. A quick App Store search turned up #Emojis (US$0.99), which includes a collection of gay-themed emoji, but nothing else LGBT-themed.
The lack of iPhone emoji diversity isn't completely on Apple's shoulders. The Unicode set that makes up the emoji collection didn't include a wider range of skin tones or a better representation of sexuality, although at least the racial part is being addressed. Unicode 7.0 includes faces with a wider range of skin colors, so now it's up to Apple to release an operating system update that supports the new emoji.
Apps like Lesbian Emojis help, too, although they don't integrate directly with apps like Apple's Messages and instead give you a way to select an icon that's placed into your chat.
Expanding the official emoji set, no matter what the new icons may be, comes at a price. Emoji already includes hundreds of icons, and adding more will only make it harder to find the ones we want to use. At some point, it doesn't matter what's added because you won't be able to find what you're looking for.
With so many emoji already available, why bother adding more, especially when only a small subset of those aren't hardly ever used? It's about the message and the importance of acceptance. People pick up social cues everywhere, including the silly little icons they add to text messages, and the unintentional message that comes along with those emoji can say, "You're part of the group," or "You aren't accepted."
For Apple, adding the new racially diverse emoji sets an example and may help open the door for more diversity. It could also do a little to help promote acceptance in a world where far too many people judge others based on how they look, what the worship, and who they love.