Labels, acronyms, gender pronouns, and symbols
The plus sign and the asterisk
Opinions and viewpoints about using the plus sign in LGBT+, and the asterisk in trans* can be strong and heartfelt. They merit their own content, but we're not doing that here, rather we'll try to explain their use (within the context of LGBT and trans) and include some obersations.
With vastly different lived experiences, attempting to represent an entire community with acronyms or labels is complicated and challenging. For example, some find labels empowering and inclusive while others think they are reductive, they divide, compartmentalise and oppress LGBTQIA+ people.
We also have mixed feelings about words that include any punctuation because they can confuse (Internet) searches and words are not necessarily pronounced differently. What do you think?
The plus sign in LGBT+
The plus and minus signs, + and −, are mathematical symbols used to represent positive and negative as well as addition and subtraction. Plus and minus are Latin terms meaning "more" and "less", respectively.
The + at the end of ‘LGBT+’ indicates there is more to the alphabet of identities and aims to encompass spectrums of sexuality and gender and be more inclusive. This may appear as LGBT+, LGBTQ+ or LGBTQIA+ and so on.
However, the LGBT+ community was devastated by the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s and we are still vulnerable to HIV stigma, even in the 21st century. So, some see the plus at the end of LGBTQIA+ to signify support and acceptance of those who live with HIV.
The asterisk in trans*
The asterisk symbol, *, at the end of a word is often used to refer readers to a note at the bottom of a page. It's also used to make words appear less offensive, like f**k or s**t. The asterisk, *, at the end of trans* indicates there is more; trans women and trans men, for example.
For some, however, it's also a source of controversy because asterisks are often used in reference a footnote to qualify or invalidate something* so, by implication, a person's gender identity is something that requires an explanation or may not be genuine. Also, to quote the Transgender Teen Survival Guide "The term “trans” already covers everything! You’re transgender if you identify as a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth. That includes trans women, trans men, nonbinary people, genderqueer people, agender people, bigender people, and so on. So we don’t need to use the asterisk because it’s superfluous- transgender is already an umbrella term without the asterisk."
*Terms and conditions apply.
LGBT | Wikipedia
What does LGBTQ+ mean? | OK2BME
What is LGBTQ+? What does the plus stand for and is anyone left out? | Pink News | 15 Mar 2015
We know what LGBT means but here's what LGBTQQIAAP stands for | BBC Newsbeat | 25 Jun 2015
On the asterisk and why we don’t use it | Transgender Teen Survival Guide
What does the asterisk in “trans*” stand for? | It’s Pronounced Metrosexual
Earliest use of an asterisk (*) to indicate a zero-to-many character wildcard? | Stack Exchange
The Oxford English Dictionary added 'Trans*.' Here's what the label means | Time | 3 Apr 2018
About that often misunderstood asterisk | Practical Androgyny | 31 Oct 2013