Here's Why the New Pregnant Man Emoji Isn't About You

Apple's pregnant man and person emoji has provoked ridicule regarding the possibility of all genders being able to birth a child. But the conversation should be about representation, not proof of existence.

new ios emojis of pregnant person and pregnant man overlayed onto a smartphone vector image with a blue and green colored background
Photo: Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Getty (1); Emojipedia (1)

One feature of Apple's latest software update allows users to use face recognition authentication even while masked. But you probably haven't heard about it because the feature people are talking about instead is the incorporation of a pregnant man emoji. This was originally released by the Unicode Consortium—the non-profit organization that decides how emojis are depicted online—back in September 2021.

Since 2018, the Unicode Consortium has made a concerted effort to make emojis more gender inclusive and consistent, ensuring there is a person, man and woman for every human emoji—even adding symbols like Mrs. Claus and Mx. Clause to complete the Santa Clause series. Mx. is pronounced 'mix' and is used as a formal and non-gendered way to address nonbinary or genderqueer people.

Unicode's intent was not political. "Gender-inclusive emoji representations are not intended to represent only people with nonbinary gender identity or presentation; rather they are meant to be truly inclusive in the sense that they are meant to be unmarked or ambiguous as to gender presentation."

But conservative pundits and politicians like Marco Rubio, Laurent Boebert, and Donald Trump Jr. immediately took to Twitter to express ridicule-laden opinions about men's ability to become pregnant. Tucker Carlson sarcastically warned men to take precautions against getting pregnant. "Watch out, guys. It could happen to you." Sean Spicer insinuated the possibility of a pregnant man as unscientific. (He must have missed Bill Nye the Science Guy's explanation of gender.)

Of course, there were trans-supportive reactions reminding people that men born with female reproductive organs and perhaps assigned female at birth can and do get pregnant. The hope that these emoji might open up a nuanced conversation about what it means to be a man or woman, mother or father, or other identities that don't fit into heteronormative definitions has been crushed by the conversation that is actually taking place.

What involves a genuine desire to learn and empathize with the plight of the transgender community has been bullied by an adolescent schoolyard circle in which people intentionally—and sometimes mistakenly—equate sex with gender. They express their opinions and knowledge of the human body as facts that can't be disputed. Their arguments are based on the science they learned in grade school 30 years ago—or religion.

This becomes yet another occasion compelling trans and nonbinary (enby) people to repeat the emotionally exhausted explanation of these linguistic and conceptual differences and to insist on the reality of their mere existence; both often fall on ears that choose not to listen.

What people on both sides are failing to recognize is that the existence of pregnant men isn't up for debate. Men and nonbinary people with reproductive organs able to carry children are doing so every day. I'm nonbinary and have delivered five living children. The pregnant man and pregnant person are undeniable examples and representations of reality.

What the larger discussion should be about is representation. It's important for all people to see themselves being accurately represented in media, validating their existence and their rights.

Strides are being made in representation of transgender people on television, like Jamie Clayton's Nomi Marks on Sense 8, Hunter Schafer's Jules on Euphoria and Laverne Cox's Sophia Berset in the wildly popular Orange is the New Black. But Cox's documentary on Netflix titled Disclosure, shows the dangerous ways transgender and gender nonconforming folks have been portrayed in the media and how that has impacted the slow progress of our acceptance.

The representation of the pregnant man in the movie Junior was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. His presentation as a pregnant man was based in a far-fetched and comical sense rather than in reality. Pregnancy isn't a joke and sometimes not even a stretch for the transgender folks who do deliver babies.

Maybe the inclusion of the pregnant man and pregnant person emoji will give us trans and enby parents who have delivered children a way to feel seen and included. It could add to normalizing our experiences, lightening the burden of our constant fight for existence, inclusion, and representation.

Naysayers and politicians are reacting to the rollout of these emoji by using their platforms to ridicule, gaslight, and further marginalize a group of people struggling to have equal rights and representation. We understand their reaction stems from fear and the realization that this one little step in the inclusive direction will inspire us to stop hiding who we are as transgender parents. But ultimately, whether they understand this or not: these emoji aren't for them.

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