The new version of Apple's iPhone operating system comes with new emojis, the popular emoticons that are often used in texting and email, especially by young kids and nerdy adults like me. Two of these new pictograms represent gay and lesbian couples for the first time.
The icons are placed next to the previous relationship-related emojis showing a heterosexual couple holding hands and a heterosexual couple with a son. One shows two men holding hands. The other shows two women in the same position.
Emojis originated in Japan. Meaning picture (e) and letter (moji), the pictograms quickly become a standard across this highly visually oriented culture. Apple introduced an emoji keyboard when it got the iPhone into the Japanese market, knowing that they were fundamental to competing over there.
But then Westerners, fascinated by their cuteness, quickly adopted them too. Software appeared to enable that special Apple emoji keyboard in any iPhone or iPad. Every kid and nerdy adult with an Apple device quickly adopted them, and emojis spreaded like wildfire. Now you can find them everywhere.
Apple has greatly expanded the emoji palette with the new iOS 6, including these two gay and lesbian icons, which weren't present in iOS 5. I wouldn't be surprised if same sex couples with babies appear in iOS 7. [Thanks Logan!]