The latest version of WhatsApp includes a Transgender Pride flag, hidden from the emoji keyboard.
This is created using a ZWJ sequence of the 🏳️ White Flag emoji and ⚧ Male with Stroke and Male and Female Sign Unicode character. When this sequence is pasted into WhatsApp for Android, the individual characters are combined to create the Transgender Pride Flag.
Flags have a tendency to rally people around a common cause or identity, and the Transgender Pride Flag has been a popular request for approval by Unicode in recent years. With this addition, WhatsApp have jumped ahead of Unicode, and added a Trans Flag within their own emoji set.
When sent between WhatsApp for Android users, this flag looks no different to any other RGI (Recommended for General Interchange) emoji - except that the company has yet to include it on the emoji keyboard itself.
Separately to this release from WhatsApp today, proposals for this flag to be approved by the Unicode Consortium date back to at least 2017. Work to have this listed by Unicode remains ongoing; but in the meantime, nothing stops individual vendors creating their own emoji sequences to use within their platforms as has been done by WhatsApp here.
Microsoft have custom emojis which use the same type of sequence. For example the 🐱🐉 Dino Cat emoji shows as cat on a dinosaur on Windows, but the individual emojis for 🐱 Cat Face and 🐉 Dragon are shown on all other platforms.
It must be said that flags in general are a difficult area for a standards body such as Unicode.
For country or region flags, Unicode uses a list based on existing geographical codes from ISO to determine the core country list. For pride flags, the same principles are applied as any other emoji. More about flag types here.
This isn't the first time WhatsApp has used the 'wiggle room' in the Unicode Standard to create its own emojis, which while completely valid, haven't been documented by Unicode.
WhatsApp was the first vendor to implement the middle finger emoji in 2015 when no vendor had added Unicode 7 support at the time. In 2016 WhatsApp created an Olympic Rings emoji by joining five Unicode circle characters. This was removed after a short time.
In the flag section, WhatsApp has previously extended country codes to include England, Scotland, Wales (prior to Unicode support); and today lists the Texas subdivision as a flag, which works on WhatsApp for Android, but not other platforms.
All of these extensions have been considered valid within the Unicode Standard, and in the case of Texas, WhatsApp simply makes use of one of the over 3,000 subdivision codes made available for states and regions around the world.
Will this come to other platforms?
Should the proposal for a Transgender Pride Flag emoji be approved by Unicode, this could be listed as soon as Emoji 13.0 which is the emoji list for 2020.
In the meantime, other platforms are free to use this sequence - or any other - should they wish. Platform owners are often cautious to use new sequences on their own, as these won't work cross platform unless other platforms uses the same sequence. It's of no use having the same emoji implemented on different platforms, using different code points or sequences.
Vendors such as Apple, Google or Microsoft are more likely to work within the Unicode Consortium to agree on whether to list this emoji, and if so, which sequence is best used.
Note: Emojipedia is a voting member of the Unicode Consortium; and as such, also gets a say on this matter.
How to use the Transgender Pride Flag on WhatsApp today
To use this flag today, either copy and paste this sequence here - 🏳️⚧ - or visit the following URL and tap the Copy button; then paste into WhatsApp. The two symbols shown (as of March 2019) in the browser convert to the Transgender Pride Flag emoji once inside WhatsApp.
This requires at least version 2.19.62 of WhatsApp for Android.