What Does Trans* Mean, and Where Did It Come From?
It’s widely accepted that computer-mediated communication—emailing, texting, sexting, commenting, chatting, and so on—has changed the way we speak, even when we’re away from the keyboard. But a new label being embraced online by some transgender people may represent a linguistic first: borrowing from computer language itself.
The label in question is trans*, and the asterisk stems from common computing usage wherein it represents a wildcard—any number of other characters attached to the original prefix. Thus, a computer search for trans* might pull up transmission, transitory, or transsexual. But in this neologism, the * is used metaphorically to capture all the identities—from drag queen to genderqueer—that fall outside traditional gender norms. (The asterisk usually goes unpronounced in spoken English, though some users do say “trans star” or “trans asterisk” for clarity’s sake.)
For more of the article by Hugh Ryan, head to slate.com