a method for encoding pride flags as emoji

disclaimer, this page is heavy on unicode symbols that have a chance of not displaying properly in your browser. sorry.

on 28 March, 2022, Unicode¹ released a blog post titled "The Past and Future of Flag Emoji", in which they announced that they would no longer take proposals for flag emoji, including pride flags, and gave a bunch of really, really shitty justifications as to why.² while for subregion flags (ie: Quebèc, Catalonia, etc.) there's theoretically an avenue for people to implement them under current guidelines (and they only aren't because of apathy brought on by them not being RGI), things like pride flags have no established mechanism to be implemented, and since Unicode's solution is "just use stickers lol" that kinda just leaves pride flags up in the air to eventually be covered by ad-hoc implementations that aren't compatible with each other (or just will never be added), which is of course the thing that Unicode was made to solve in the first place.

so in my infinite anger at this niche technical decision in a subject i don't really have qualification to do anything with, i tried making a framework for encoding pride flags as emoji.

to give a bit of background for how this works:

ISO standard 3166-1 alpha-2³ contains certain codes that are reserved for use by individual organizations/people/etc. to use as they want:

naturally, ISO 3166-2⁴ codes that correspond to those reserved codes are also free.

you can essentially split the way unicode handles flags into four different methods:

my workaround system is to use the method of implementing subdivision flags to encode pride flags, replacing the "country" indicator with one of the reserved values (im personally going with QU, bc queer). using the current method exactly (writing the ISO 3166-2 code with lowercase letters and only using letters), we could encode 17,576 different three-letter sequences (and thus, that many flags), but if we wanted to use the entire tag set (of 95 symbols), we could get 857,375 three-character sequences (granted, idk if doing that would be useful or even necessary at all, but it should technically be an option).

with this system, the asexual flag could be represented as, say:

and it would render out as the asexual flag and be copyable between different platforms as normal ass text (assuming this were adopted).

the caveat of this (and to be fair, it's a big one) is that i don't know how you'd reach concensus on what codes are for what flags without a central authority managing it (would the lesbian flag be les, lsb, wlw, etc.?). absent any higher power here i'm inclined to just leave it to implementer/community choice, but that goes back into the issue of interoperability this is designed to avoid (tho at least there'd be a framework for how to go about things now). i don't know, i'm just a trans girl on the internet that's mad about nerd shit.

that being said, here are my own thoughts on some potential codepoints:

i'm not expecting this to really take off or anything, these are just my ramblings in response to a shitty decision. if you do get any use out of this let me know!


¹ - Unicode's emoji subcommittee specifically.

² - while i can ramble about how fucking bad this post is for hours, i think More Pride Emojis did a good job of responding to it here and you should read their description if you want more info.

³ - a method for encoding countries (and a bunch of non-country places for some reason) as two-letter codes.

⁴ - a method for encoding the subdivisions of countries as their country's ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code followed by a variable length code representing the subdivision itself.

⁵ - a disused set of symbols corresponding to basic english uppercase/lowercase letters/numbers/basic punctuation plus start/end symbols that was intended to be used to mark the language of a block of text but eventually got repurposed for this (sans the start symbol).

⁶ - Unicode uses the lack of any subdivision emoji being implemented beyond England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿, Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿, and Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 as an indicator that any future flags would be disused, but the only reason those three got implemented is because Unicode told vendors they should support them in the first place and they just happen to leave this out god this is so fucking frustrating