A few people have asked why I write “trans*” (with the asterisk) instead of just “trans” when referring to trans* folks on my site. Ā Well, I’m happy to answer that!

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Trans* is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum, other than cisgender man and cisgender woman. Ā There’s a ton of diversity in the different identities there, but we often group them all together (e.g., when we say “trans* issues). Ā In this way, trans (without the asterisk) can be intentionally used to describeĀ trans men and trans women, while the asterisk denotes a special effort to also include all non-binary, genderqueer, and gender non-conformingĀ identities, including (but not limited to, and in no particular order) transgender, transman, transwoman, transsexual, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderfuck, genderless, agender, non-gendered, third gender, two-spirit, and bigender.

The origin behind the asterisk, as I understand it, is a bit computer geeky. Ā When you add an asterisk to the end of a search term, you’re telling your computer to search for whatever you typed, plus any characters after (e.g., [search term*][extra letters], or trans*[-gender, -queer, -sexual, etc.]). Ā The idea was to include trans and otherĀ identitiesĀ related to trans, in the most technically awesome way. Ā I <3 Geekdom.

There are certainly downsides and upsides to the asterisk (similar to the @ in [email protected]/[email protected], like “How do you pronounce it?” (with the asterisk, you don’t pronounce it), and it’s not for everyone, but you can investigate and weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself.

I created the graphic aboveĀ to help raise awareness of this so folks can be more inclusive in their writing when referring to trans* people.

About Version 2

I updated this graphic, not just visually, but in content in September 2018. Instead of publishing that as a separate post (like how I’ve done with genderbread people), I am just replacing the image on this one instead. Here’s why: Version 2 is…

  • Cuter and easier to implement on a bulletin board or in a classroom (how a ton of people have been using this graphic over the years)
  • Edited based on community feedback, including the removal of “transvestite” (which was confusing and inaccurate to include, because that’s not a trans* identity — my bad)
  • Easier to print on standard 8.5×11 or A4 paper, instead of tabloid size
Do you want the original, version 1 poster? You can find that here, or as a .pdf here.

Since publishing the first version, “trans*” got added to the Oxford English Dictionary, which is a big leap forward in layperson accessibility for this grammatical monkey wrench.

For me, intentionally including non-binary identities when talking about trans* issues, instead of perpetuating the societal mental default of binary trans identities (i.e., transmen and transwomen) is worth the extra effort — that is, assuming you’re not just talking about transgender women and transgender men in a given moment. And the Alphabet Soup 2.0s that are popping up (e.g., TGNCNB for “transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary) are creating as many problems as they solve.