To Use or Not To Use

A while back I said that I wouldn’t be using the word trans with an asterisk because some people consider it offensive, but I’ve recently been looking into it some more and wanted to make a short post about it.

In programming languages, an asterisk is usually added at the end of words when using search engines in order to find other words that have something in common. So if you were to search for trans* and add an asterisk, the results would include other terms like transportation, transmisogynist, transform or transplant. It was therefore created to be inclusive. This is the only argument I found in favour to using the asterisk, really.

Some consider it offensive because it’s as if those who aren’t “trans enough” can’t be included under the umbrella term unless the asterisk is used, meaning non-binary genders wouldn’t officially be trans (I don’t recognize this as a valid reason since some people who are genderqueer, agender, genderfluid, cross-dressers, etc., don’t identify as trans, even though others with the same identities do. Those who don’t wouldn’t be included under the word trans but would under the word trans*). Another reason for not using it is because some say it is more often used by those who were FAAB, therefore excludes trans women, which I can’t really agree with either.

However, Natalie Reed makes some different good points against the asterisk over at this place and Jack is also against it for other reasons.

Now you can decide yourselves whether to use or not. I won’t.

7 thoughts on “To Use or Not To Use

  1. I really appreciate your revisiting this and the links provided. I understood from a friend who heads Project Trans at the local LGBT Center that “transgender” is meant as an umbrella term encompassing all expressions of gender identity (well, except cisgender). And I’m not even going to try to list them here 🙂 The term “transsexual” is used to express those who have transitioned in their gender identity, which I’m now uncomfortably aware is still placing people in the binary. “Genderqueer” and “gender fluid” are used to encompass other, more non-binary expressions. (I’m kinda uncomfortable with “genderqueer” simply because queer was an ugly term in my youth. But I’m also uncomfortable with “c*nt” even after seeing The Vagina Monologues, so I’ve got hang-ups I need to work through.)

    Is my understanding on the right (inclusive) track? The very last thing I want to do is hurt and exclude people through my ignorance.

    And I’ve dropped the asterisk as a result of your post and links — thank you for shining some light!

    • Yeah, I think that’s more or less correct. Though not all transsexuals transition; I see it more as a term for binary trans people, in contrast to non-binaries. And I also use transgender as an umbrella term.
      I always cringe when I hear words like c*nt. Maybe that’s because I am overly polite with my language when speaking and avoid any sexual language whatsoever. I have never said the word “sex” aloud. I’ve never even said a swearword before.

      • Thanks. I realized as I was commenting that I was still coming from a place of strict binary words and roles. It’s even more deeply embedded than I thought.

        In the version of The Vagina Monologues I saw, there was a scene about reclaiming language, in this case c*nt, and making the word empowering. I understand the theory, but the reality is that word really makes me uncomfortable. I have a physical reaction to it. I wish I could say I’ve never uttered a swear word! Some days I drop them like pixie dust.

  2. I think part of the problem is that the words are all meaningless. There’s no consensus. We’re using words without knowing if the person we’re talking to has the same understanding of them. From what I’ve seen, the big definitions of ‘transsexual’ and ‘transgender’ are: (and these are just in my experience, not all-inclusive)
    Transsexual means:
    1. People who’ve transitioned medically/intend to do so
    2. Binary-gender trans people (I have a problem with using it to mean this because it DOES imply a physical transition and there’s the myth that non-binaries can’t transition or don’t feel dysphoria that saying “transsexual=binary” reinforces)
    3. It’s interchangeable with ‘transgender’

    Transgender means
    1. People who aren’t transitioning medically
    2. Anyone whose gender identity doesn’t match their assigned sex in any way at any time
    3. Anyone whose gender identity, preferred presentation, etc does not match with the norms of their assigned sex
    I’ve seen educational pamphlets that said that cis women wearing pants qualify as “transgender”. Seriously.

    Without a consensus, whether or not ‘trans*’ is useful is up in the air. If transgender is totally inclusive, then “Trans*” is redundant. I’ve seen people who consider transsexual and transgender separate and not completely overlapping use ‘trans*’ to mean “I’m explicitly talking about both transgender and transsexual”, and there I see the point, but clearly that’s not what everyone who uses it means. Using it as a generic “I’m more radical than you” is pointless, not progressive.

    • The problem here is that our offline community doesn’t really communicate much, so everyone feels free to pick up what they want and leave what they don’t. There isn’t enough discussion as to what means what. Once we gain more visibility and unity, the terms will probably start having only one definition.
      (If women who wear pants are transgender, then pretty much everybody is. Even Barbie.)

  3. I agree, there’s not enough unity. There are enough sub-sections that are very different, making it harder, but other communities have managed to join together despite that and be more cohesive. Even online there isn’t unity, and one area can develop language separately from another- and then, yeah, someone from outside that group can see the language and grab it without totally understanding the context. I’ve seen trans women say that they don’t understand the “tr**ny” debate because, in the communities they’ve been part of, the word is totally reclaimed, but obviously that’s not everyone’s experience.

    We are getting a lot more visibility, so hopefully that will help with getting the language more cohesive.

    (Yes, that was the point, they were arguing “You shouldn’t be transphobic because EVERYONE is trans! *throws confetti*”. It said that 75% of people or something qualified as transgender, it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever seen.)

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