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We’ve won, lesbians. We’ve penetrated the realm of emojis

Snark aside, queer women should never be invisible.

If you’re in the middle of writing an earnest blog post about lesbian invisibility, stop this second. If you’re at a protest against lesbophobia, a fundraiser for lesbians with allergies, or a dyke march, go home now. After a struggle that can be traced back millennia, to Sappho’s fight for her right to mournfully finger women on an island, the battle is finally over. And ladies, we won. We’ve done it, lesbians, we’ve penetrated the realm of emojis.

Emojis, of course, are those tiny pictures of things you send to people in texts/WhatsApp messages, etc when you’re feeling intimidated by the richness and depth of language, and are looking to outsource your creativity. “I’m facing a level of existential doubt and dissatisfaction heretofore unbeknownst to mankind. Words fail me; here’s a little tractor instead.”

These new guys on the emoji scene include Piper and Alex from Orange Is The New Black, a fish taco (for the love of God), and a Tegan and Sara album. This unprecedented projection of lesbian iconography on to the screen of digital communication is sure to change the medium forever.  I mean, I’ve lost count of the number of times my emotions could only be expressed by a graphical representation of a turkey baster, and now I can do exactly that. It’s overwhelming to think that, up until so recently, I’d have to settle for the words, “I’m feeling turkey baster-y.”

Snark aside though, queer women should never be invisible. And I doff my trucker hat to Katie Streeter and Kimberly Linn, the designers behind the lesbian emojis. Streeter and Linn simply saw a place in which lesbians weren’t represented and went about filling it with famously dykey things. Having said that, I wasn’t immediately sure what their unicorn emoji represented, and weird shit happens when you Google “Lesbian unicorn”.

But anyway, where to go from here? Now that we can get married, be on TV and text one another miniscule pictures of innuendo-drenched Mexican delicacies, what could possibly be next for lesbian visibility? You so rarely see any lesbian neo-Nazis so, yet again, we fall behind gay men there. But maybe, for once, that’s a good thing. What about breakfast cereal though? Count to three and a lesbian, somewhere, has just finished a bowl of Alpen. But what’s on the box? Mountains. Great lumbering, bland mountains. It’s probably about time that Coco, the Coco Pops monkey (who everyone thinks is a bloke, for some reason), came out as a lesbian too.

I’m actually quite chuffed that I can now electronically emote in Lesbianese. It’s almost like Polari, the original slang of gay subculture, getting a 21st-century makeover. Next we’ll be 3D printing strap-ons and plonking a statue of Sue Perkins peering into an oven on Mars. But back to the present. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the BuzzFeed Age is the best time there’s ever been to be a lesbian.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

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