Have you ever seen someone really overreact to something tiny? In this case, we’re talking about literally tiny — an emoji on the screen of your smartphone. For a lot of users, though, and at least one politician, it’s huge.
First, let’s be super-clear that inclusion and representation are always a big deal. So, when a new emoji is released that offers representation for transgender people, it really is big news. This newest emoji, a pregnant man, recognizes the existence of trans men, and that some of them can get pregnant. In a world that’s already shown resistance to de-gendering reproductive care, this is a valuable change.
It’s also more than enough to set off conservatives, like Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), who found it necessary to let his Twitter followers know he does not recognize the existence of transgender men.
Apple just introduced a "pregnant man" emoji.
Newsflash @Apple, only women can get pregnant!
— Mo Brooks – Endorsed By President Trump 🇺🇸 (@MoBrooks) July 16, 2021
The new emoji set, expected out in September, includes a pregnant man in multiple skin tones, and that’s not all.
🗓 When do new emojis come out?
🧑⚖️ Sep 2021: Final version of Emoji 14.0 to be released
🤷 Oct-Dec 2021: Earliest some phones might support it
— Emojipedia (@Emojipedia) July 15, 2021
Emojipedia also lists “pregnant person” — something that might have upset Brooks and other conservatives even more, since they’re so attached to the idea of gender as a binary.
Brooks isn’t the only one upset at a more inclusive emoji set. Conservative activist Cassandra Fairbanks declared the pregnant man emojis evidence that technology as a whole was a mistake.
A former communications director for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign weighed in, hoping that the pregnant man emoji was actually just a fellow who’d had a big meal of fast food.
Maybe the man emoji isn't pregnant, but actually just ate too much Arby's. pic.twitter.com/bUt35VlpQF
— Tim Murtaugh (@TimMurtaugh) July 16, 2021
Further complaints echoed around Twitter from conservative journalists and activists.
They actually did it. They’re making a pregnant man emoji. We have gone from “being inclusive” to all out insanity. https://t.co/ZlOySTDxKd
— Brendon Leslie (@BrendonLeslie) July 15, 2021
Some even floated an idea to ‘ruin’ the emoji for trans people by getting it associated with the far right and neo-nazis.
Pregnant man emoji has been used by nazis as a dog whistle, I’ve seen it https://t.co/pcpyFJ2a44
— Who is Ray Epps? (@ElijahSchaffer) July 15, 2021
Ultimately, no one will ever force Mo Brooks or any other conservative to use this emoji, and it doesn’t have to have any direct impact on their lives — unless they’re really just that unhappy that one little piece of society has moved towards recognizing, acknowledging the existence of, and including, people who are different from them.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com