Adding RAINBOW FLAG to Unicode

Noah Slater nslater at
Sat Jun 27 12:26:22 CDT 2015


It is Pride Month and the US just legalised queer marriage in every state.
No better time to start a conversation about including the internationally
recognised rainbow flag in Unicode!

Here’s some background reading on the flag itself:


Here's Bustle on the inclusion of the rainbow flag:

> Nearly 40 years after it was first flown, the rainbow flag remains a
powerful and potent symbol of not only current gay rights struggles, but
the history of gay rights in America. So why isn’t it available as an
emoji? The flag is in the public domain, so it certainly isn’t being held
up by copyright issues. And the current range of rainbow-related emoji show
that the technology to jam all those colors distinctly into a very tiny
space is available. Numerous national flags have been emojified. And given
that the flag has recently been added to the Museum of Modern Art’s design
collection, everyone is in agreement about its ongoing cultural
significance. So what gives?

This article also includes an example (via screenshot) of how many people
“make do” without the rainbow flag. Typically, they use U+1F308 RAINBOW.
This can be seen by searching on Twitter (or any other social media
platform) for that character.

Indeed, GitHub uses RAINBOW for this:

Facebook did the same sort of thing, as seen here:

They also did this:

These emojis are *derivative* of the rainbow flag, or include characters
displaying the rainbow flag.

While it can be argued that the RAINBOW emoji itself is usable as a
stand-in (as above), it usually requires some sort of additional context to
work. There is a clear need for a rainbow flag that unambiguously
symbolises queer pride.

This is already going on, with some platforms choosing to use a custom
emoji shim where no Unicode code-point exists.

This is Twitter’s rainbow flag:


Slack has one too:


Reddit also offers one:


In all three examples, the symbol is being used in running text.

I found this:

> [...] the UTC does not wish to entertain further proposals for encoding
of symbol characters for flags, whether national, state, regional,
international, or otherwise. References to UTC Minutes: [134-C2], January
28, 2013.

I looked up the minutes, but could not find a more detailed explanation. My
guess is that these concerns related to geopolitical issues. Hopefully the
same rationale does not apply to the rainbow flag.

Looking at:

Here's a quick list of summary answers:

a. Compatibility: yes. There are existing platform-specific rainbow flag
emojis, as demonstrated above. To build a Twitter or Slack client that
replicated the native functionality, you would have to use an image instead
of a Unicode code point.

b. Expected usage level: the rainbow emoji is listed at #168 on, and as demonstrated, the rainbow flag has been in wide
use since the 1970s.

c. Image distinctiveness: the rainbow flag is visually distinct.

d. Disparity: the rainbow flag is a missing flag.

e. Frequently requested: unsure. I could organise a petition if this would
help to sway the decision.

f. Generality: the rainbow flag is not overly specific. Indeed it is the
most general of all the pride flags.

g. Open-ended: the rainbow flag is open ended, being the most general of
all the pride flags. (Wikipedia lists 18 pride flags on the LGBT symbols
page, but there are many more in the wild.)

h. Representable already: a rainbow can be represented, but it is
ambiguous. The RAINBOW emoji cannot be combined with anything pictorial
that makes the meaning clear. Context is required, such as paring it with
the word "pride".

i. Logos, Brands, UI icons, signage, specific people, deities: the image is
suitable for for encoding as a character.

What is the best thing for me to do next?

My proposal is that we add RAINBOW FLAG to Unicode, and that we use the
“six-color version popular since 1979”.

I only found one official proposal for a single emoji:

I couldn’t find any templates for proposals, though I did look through a
number of different examples.

I noticed that a number of them include the ISO/IEC form at the end. Can
someone explain that to me? Does it make sense to submit a proposal to the
UTC without one of these?

I also notice that it looks like I have to provide (or find a person to
provide) a font for the character. Is there any guidance on that? I am
happy to pay someone to prepare such a thing for me.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Noah Slater
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