The gender star “*” is a visual marker used in German in order to create spaces for people of all genders, not only men and women. It aims to include, among others, non-binary people, and refers to the diversity of genders. A similar use of theunderscore “_” (or gender gap) can also be found in German.
The gender star is placed between the root of the noun, which also represents its masculine form, and the feminine suffix. That being so, the gender-inclusive version of e.g. ‘Sportler’ and ‘Sportlerin’ (repectively, the masculine and feminine forms of ‘athlete’) is ‘Sportler*in’. This mechanism is also used to create gender-inclusive plural forms like ‘Patient*innen’ (patients) instead of ‘Patienten’ and/or ‘Patientinnen’.
In spoken language, the gender star is articulated through a short, audible break between the fragments of the word that it divides.