Trans*: The trans asterisk
Lately I’ve seen people explaining this simply as “it’s a more inclusive term” and leaving it at that. But there’s a reason it’s seen as more inclusive: the asterisk. And that asterisk makes an important change to the meaning.
An asterisk is a wildcard character in computing. It means “in place of this asterisk, what follows can be any number of other characters or nothing”.
Most often it’s used in search functions within documents or for files on a PC. Any time you hit Ctrl+F and don’t choose “search for complete word only”, you’re telling the computer to search for *whateveryoutyped*. In english, you’re searching for (any characters)whateveryoutyped(any characters).
It’s also used frequently in programming for text input form validation using something called regular expressions(which is a mind-bending syntax for a beginner and I recommend not googling it unless you’re big on autodidactism(which you SHOULD google)).
As it relates to trans*, if you were to search for “trans” in a system that defaults to not including wildcards (in other words, you checked “Search for complete word only”), it would only find:
But if you searched trans*, it would recognize:
You get the idea.
It started as a somewhat-geeky way of being inclusive of multiple identities at once without listing them individually. For the identities typically included, I think “trans” works pretty well without the asterisk, but for those who do use it, now you know.