What does it mean?

Trans* is a term intended to act as a more inclusive version of trans, after some people felt that trans was not being used to describe them.

“…for a while a lot of people in trans communities used ‘trans*’ with the idea that this was a more inclusive term, with the * standing in for various possible endings. But now most agree that ‘trans’ (without the *) is the more inclusive umbrella term.” – How to Understand Your Gender

There is a detailed discussion of the history of trans* and the current controversies around its use in this article by Julia Serano.

It is normally less confusing to use the word trans (without an asterisk).

Umbrella term

"Trans*" is a word that covers a large number of different people - it’s an umbrella term.

Words like this can:

  • help if you’re not sure what specific term describes you
  • help if how you relate to gender is fluid and changes over time
  • be more likely to be understood by the general public
  • be useful for ensuring that a wide range of different people can access resources and support

However, words like this can also:

  • hide how much people using the term actually differ
  • hide how much more discrimination some people using the term receive
  • include people in a term that they don’t like without asking them
  • include people in a term that they don't feel actually describes them

Think carefully before using this word to describe someone or a group of people - they may not wish to be described that way.

Defined by breaking norms

"Trans*" is a word that describes whether people are breaking the rules - “norms” - of how people are expected to behave or describe themselves.

Words like this can:

  • make visible that it is possible to break norms
  • help explain how people are discriminated against or targeted for breaking norms
  • help explain the privilege given to people who do not break norms

However, words like this can also:

  • imply that only certain people are allowed to break norms
  • be confusing, as almost everyone breaks at least some norms
  • be confusing, as people may not know whether they break enough norms to use the term
  • hide that some people don't just experience discrimination for breaking norms, and experience gender dysphoria too
  • result in the term being used to mean “normal person” or “abnormal person”

Think carefully before using this word to describe someone or a group of people - they may not wish to be described that way.

Errors and omissions

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