The gay emojis are here. Smiley face!
Grindr, the gay hookup app, released a new library of emojis, or "Gaymoji", this week, which includes fresh takes on the symbols we've been using for all of about three years now. Instead of just your basic eggplant (penis) or peach (arse), you can select a pierced eggplant and a peach on a dinner plate! Fun!
The emojis haven't even been out a week and Grindr's already removed some, like the giant golden "T" which many assumed referred to "tina", code for crystal meth. Condoning drug use — that was unwise. Others are not very well thought out, like the emoji of a blond woman that accompanies "Bye Felicia". #emojisowhite!
There has already been some blowback (excuse the pun) from the media about all this. We gays are frequently accused of bringing about moral decline and a breakdown of civilisation. But truth be told, we are often the first to create culture. Disco, beards, vogueing, hooking up through the internet — we were there first! Time will tell whether the Gaymoji stick around and reach a larger public. Who knows, by next month your heterosexual husband may be texting you an emoji of a blindfolded and ball-gagged head.
Language does shape the imagination, however, and emoji language is no exception. I worry that by making our desires cartoonish, we will all befuddle ourselves and actually seek out eggplant-shaped genitalia and will only want to sleep with someone in a bunk bed.
If the Gaymoji are going to go global and become an entire new way for us all to express our sexuality, then it's wise to let us gays try them out during their clunky infancy and we will let you know how it's going in a few. New languages are hard to master. Even speaking in emoji takes some time. It took me months to comprehend the crude arrows men used on their profiles to signify "top" (up arrow) or "bottom" (down arrow).
In many ways, nothing has changed. Gay men used a hanky code in the 1970s to signal their sexual appetites, placing them in the right or left back pocket to signal top or bottom. (Dark blue for anal sex, light blue for oral, teal blue for genitorture! Ouch!)
But there was a time there, at least from, say, 1987 to 2003, when gay guys had to use old-fashioned words and speech to convey how we felt or what we wanted. I remember long ago, in the Analogue Era, meeting up in physical meatspace and having to explain who I was through words, gestures and clothing choices. Most challenging was dialling an actual number and then having to leave a message on something they called voicemail. "Hey, it's Mike, just wondering if you are maybe free this week to hang out?"
I would never really say what I wanted sexually, or list my desires. But I don't remember really having specific desires. I just wanted to make out with someone I thought was sexy and hopefully not a sociopath. Although I could have used a "no sociopaths!" emoji at the time. Well, I could use one now, too, come to think of it.