This section includes eighty-six short original essays commissioned for the inaugural issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. Written by emerging academics, community-based writers, and senior scholars, each essay in this special issue, “Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies,” revolves around a particular keyword or concept. Some contributions focus on a concept central to transgender studies; others describe a term of art from another discipline or interdisciplinary area and show how it might relate to transgender studies. While far from providing a complete picture of the field, these keywords begin to elucidate a conceptual vocabulary for transgender studies. Some of the submissions offer a deep and resilient resistance to the entire project of mapping the field terminologically; some reveal yet-unrealized critical potentials for the field; some take existing terms from canonical thinkers and develop the significance for transgender studies; some offer overviews of well-known methodologies and demonstrate their applicability within transgender studies; some suggest how transgender issues play out in various fields; and some map the productive tensions between trans studies and other interdisciplines.
The asterisk (*), or star, is a symbol with multiple meanings and applications that can mark a bullet point in a list, highlight or draw attention to a particular word or phrase, indicate a footnote, or operate as a wildcard character in computing and telecommunications. In relation to transgender phenomena, the asterisk is used primarily in the latter sense, to open up transgender or trans to a greater range of meanings. As Sevan Bussell (2012), a blogger and advocate for using trans*, has explained, “The asterisk came from internet search structure. 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.” Though trans* has appeared sporadically in print and online for several years, discussions of this new nomenclature began appearing regularly in online gender-community spaces only around 2010.
Although transgender has been used since the early 1990s as an umbrella term to cover the widest possible range of gender variation, it is now understood in some circles to represent only binary notions of transness and to refer only to trans men and trans women rather than to those who contest the gender binary (Killermann 2012). Proponents of adding the asterisk to trans argue that it signals greater inclusivity of new gender identities and expressions and better represents a broader community of individuals. Trans* is thus meant to include not only identities such as transgender, transsexual, trans man, and trans woman that are prefixed by trans- but also identities such as genderqueer, neutrios, intersex, agender, two-spirit, cross-dresser, and genderfluid (ibid.).
Ironically, typing “trans*” into a search engine yields only results that include the trans- prefix, thereby reinscribing the very conceptual limitations of trans being argued against by those who advocate using the asterisk. We therefore must consider how the asterisk may have a more multifaceted theoretical application. Recalling the variety of ways in which the asterisk can function, trans* blends the symbol's wildcard function with its use as a figurative bullet point in a list of identities that are not predicated on the trans- prefix formulation. Similarly, starring trans draws attention to the word, indicating the possibility of a deeper meaning than the prefix itself might suggest. Finally, the asterisk may act as a footnote indicator, implying a complication or suggesting further investigation. In this sense, the asterisk actually pushes beyond the trans- prefix and opposes it as the only legitimate way to refer to trans* identities and communities.