On Vexed

05Mar09

In which The Gay Recluse is vexed.

Lately we’ve been thinking about how much we still kinda h8 the words ‘gay’ and ‘queer.’  Though we know that many in ‘the community’ consider this a ‘settled issue’ — and perhaps this is a vestige of our own self-h8red, which is not small by any measure — we still generally feel uncomfortable identifying with either term beyond the most perfunctory shorthand, like when d-bags in the locker room are talking about how they want to ‘bone some broad’ and they look in our direction for validation we’re like ‘stfu — we’re gay.’

We went to dictionary.com and looked up gay:

Gay –adjective

1. having or showing a merry, lively mood: gay spirits; gay music.
2. bright or showy: gay colors; gay ornaments.
3. given to or abounding in social or other pleasures: a gay social season.
4. licentious; dissipated; wanton: The baron is a gay old rogue with an eye for the ladies. [Ed. wait — what?]
5. homosexual.
6. of, indicating, or supporting homosexual interests or issues: a gay organization.

If  you’re like us, none of these definitions remotely captures anything about your life, except maybe numbers five and six, to the extent that it’s synonymous with “non-heterosexual.” But as we all know, “homosexual” is a scientific term invented in the late 1800s and thus cannot be used without sounding like you’re an animal in the zoo, e.g., “Yall, let’s get a grant to study the homosexuals! We heard that they have enlarged brains/thumbs/swirly hairdos/six-packs!”

So what about queer?

–adjective

1. strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different; singular: a queer notion of justice.
2. of a questionable nature or character; suspicious; shady: Something queer about the language of the prospectus kept investors away.
3. not feeling physically right or well; giddy, faint, or qualmish: to feel queer.
4. mentally unbalanced or deranged.
5. Slang/Disparaging and Offensive a. homosexual. b.effeminate; unmanly.
6. Slang bad, worthless, or counterfeit.

We understand the idea of ‘reclaiming your identity’ — kinda like how all the kids on the subway call each other ‘nigga’ — but do you srsly want to be called queer? We don’t! (Might be ‘too old’.)  ‘Columbia University has excellent academic programs in Nigga Studies and Queer Studies?’ What makes one soooo much more ‘acceptable’ than the other?

While many of you may or may not agree, in either case we suspect you’d like to challenge us to come up with something better. After all, these terms have many decades of history/study behind them, and it’s possible to envision a day 100,000 years in the future when they might be entirely divorced from the superficial/derogatory meanings from which they originally arose.

Our solution is vexed.

1. irritated; annoyed: vexed at the slow salesclerks.
2. much discussed or disputed: a vexed question.
3. tossed about, as waves.
4 [Proposed as of 2k9]. non-heterosexual.*

*Although we don’t ever endorse the use of adjectives as nouns except in an ironic context — ‘the gays were upset that Madonna/Cher/Britney canceled her tour’ — we propose the alternate form ‘vext’ to allow for similar uses, e.g., ‘the vexts lobbied hard in Albany/DC yet achieved nothing despite Democratic majorities in both houses.’

Seriously, how much more ’empowering’ and — especially w/r/t definition number three — poetic is ‘vexed’ than any other alternative? It’s basically like saying: ‘Don’t fuck with me/us,’ while maintaining a certain and appropriate degree of intelligence and impatience (but not anger or violence, which we don’t support) for mainstream convention that frankly needs to be a hallmark going forward in any interaction with those str8s who don’t ‘get it.’

Try it out. ‘Yall, don’t talk bullshit to me about _____! I’m vexed!’ In politics. ‘Yall should be able to ‘get married’ if you’re vexed.’ Or for students of literature: ‘Marcel Proust was the best novelist of all-time; not coincidentally, like most great novelists except during the dark ages from 1945  to 2010 — he was vexed.’ Note also that ladies are equally welcome to be vexed, and won’t be appropriating a tired old term like gay, which inevitably makes them (as usual) second-class citizens on the gender front.

We are not gay or queer.

We are tossed about, as waves.

We are vext.

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15 Responses to “On Vexed”

  1. 1 Colin

    I think that’s an awful alternative

    “2. much discussed or disputed: a vexed question”

    The connotation here is that a resolution cannot be reached or the person cannot make a decision. I think a lot of homosexual people are pretty resolute in their attraction to the same sex. I feel like this term enforces the myth that homosexuality is purely a lifestyle choice.

    Why queer is awesome:

    Queer implies a kind of non-specific otherness or difference from a standard that allows it to be a more inclusive term for the LGBT community, which has a tendency to get wrapped up in the specifics of identity politics and labels. The kind of positive “reclaimed” definition is not widely enough recognized to be in the dictionary yet. Basically it’s a great term, and dictionary.com is definately not doing it justice.

    Also, I have a lot of difficulty equating “queer” with “nigga.” I think “faggot” makes for a more appropriate comparison, and that’s not even on the map as a mainstream identification (although I have been known to drop a “where my faggots at?!” when I enter a room).

    • Hey Colin — thanks for the comments — part of this may be an age thing, because I’ll always hate queer, which to me is synonymous with faggot (or just slightly less offensive), perhaps because I grew up hearing about men who were “queer as a three-dollar bill” and so on and I will never be able to completely divorce the word from its pejorative origins. I see your point about not wanting to raise the specter of “choice,” but to me that’s such a given that I would be willing to trade that negative for the (as I see them, greater) positives.

      I also wanted something more aggressive vis-a-vis the str8 world that I think “queer” and “gay” do not at all embody; there is no sense of a don’t-fuck-with-us kind of danger that leads to a complacency in which we/our issues are continually left on the back burner. To me “vexed” implies a simmering anger about something that needs to be addressed, which I like.

      I also think vexed/vext (in theory, obv) implies the same otherness that queer does and is extremely inclusive for the LGBT ‘community’ (another word I can only use with great reluctance), mostly because it’s brand new and has no association at all with any gender.

      But if there were ever a discussion that could be labeled ‘academic,’ this is no doubt it! I will continue to respectfully use “gay” and “queer” when the occasion arises; I just wanted to throw out another option — even for philosophical/theoretical reasons — with the idea that for once we would perhaps not be quite so defined/marginalized by the past.

  2. 3 orinink

    at the risk of sounding dull,i like samesexer,one who beds down with his or her sex.Queer never did it for me ,i have never felt odd about loving men.no matter how much my parents said dont.I feel content but gay is way too camp for me .none of the archaic titles fit for me.I am not pissed about being gay .I have been given more insight into humanity,diversity and sexuality.This is a blessing,it doesnt make me better than strieght people(two strieght people made me) it makes me a well rounded person.Society tried to gut me of feeling so it could use my body then throw it in the ground but then i woke up and realized that i could be the emperor of my very own land and if i ruled over it with kindness others might want to visit.My sister they tried to cut her feet and give her shoes 3 sizes too small,she escaped and ruled over her own paradise,we are not orphans,we are seers of a reality that has allways existed,the reality that loves has no gender and no one set course.

  3. It IS an age thing (well, partly, at least). When I was growing up, gay did not exist in the way it’s used today. But queer sure did. It was definitely the nigger alternative for homosexuals. Then, one day, it was OK for queer to be used in the classroom and have studied based around it. Go figure. As Willie the Shake once asked us, “What’s in a name?” And the answer, of course, is “Whatever you make it.” I am still trying to find the right words for a same-sex partner: Companion? (sounds like a senior citizen kinda thing.) Partner? (Are you in business together?) Significant Other? (Please.) Better for lesbian cows: SIgnificant Udder. I’ve given up on finding that word. Now, another one for “gay”? No way. Actually, I kinda like orinik’s “samesexer.” Has a nice ring and works for both G’s & L’s.

    • Thanks Jim… btw — Gore Vidal has been using “same-sexer” for a long time, but I wanted something more succinct and formal, and also something that worked as an adjective.

  4. When I came out in the great urban sexual revolution of the early 1970s–my radical friends and I completely embraced being ‘queer.’ We wanted not to be identified in any way with our ‘heterosexual’ brethren–loathing all that they stood for–domesticity, complacency and kowtowing to the great god of procreation. We longed for and actively created a community of queerness–eschewing as much as we could of societal norms. No one challenged us. Heteros desired us and the freedom of our lives. Call it what you will, it is our sexual predilections and preferences that gives us power. It scares the others. Let it. Choose whatever name you want–what we are called (or call ourselves) will not change those dynamics.

    • Thanks for the comment, Robert — I agree with you that the dynamics have not changed, but I simply wanted to challenge the language describing that dynamic, because I have never felt embraced by the queer (or any other) ‘community.’ But as I’ve said to others who were less than pleased with this post, I only raise this from my own completely subjective (and probably selfish/egocentric/artistic/philosophical) viewpoint and have no desire to impose it on anyone or ‘start a movement’ and am happy to (respectfully) use the terms queer and gay in a political/social context when it often matters most.

  5. what colin said! i think it is a generational thing cause when i was growing up I never heard queer being used as a pejorative, at least by my peers. Really my main childhood association with the word is the Something Queer books for young people, about these fun girls who solve mysteries with their basset hound. If anyone wanted to call me a fag they called me… a fag. Maybe in 10 years Fag Studies will be the new thing in academia and I’ll know how you feel.

    I like queer because it feels inclusive and sort of rejects assimilation in a fun and general way.

    I do think VEXED is funny but maybe it applies more to recluses?

  6. ps i automatically reject any term that gore vidal would use. if my main agenda was making jackie o love me i might take him more seriously.

  7. 10 orinink

    okay how about dicklover,dick breath ,pinga panda’s,sons of judy,normal?,i do not think it is sex that gives us power,it is our union as a group.As gays we have managed to create a community ,what i fear is that we will become ghettoized in this community,and fail to see the bigger picture,that we are not victims of our sexuality but creators of it,to me the after 5 bar life and chelsea gyms and metropolitan opera’s can be just as dull as the “heterodoxy”.I can see where same sexer can seem a bit dumb,and i dont know enough about gore vidal to dislike him,but what i was getting at is that there is a need for all of us to get on with the act of being healthy contributors to life and we cannot do that if we are so passionate about the” team” we are on that we can not see that we do not live in a bubble.I am not strange or Queer it is so normal to love someone of the same sex that there are animals,who do not live amongst us who do it,so it must be a normalthing and yes same sex is pro-creative it makes peace in the world.

  8. 11 Kelly Keatng

    Vexed/vext is growing on me. For a while, I did favor queer, but now it seems to belong too much to the historical moment of the early 90″s, just like homosexual belongs to the 19th century. For a time, I favored “bent”, but then you get into that binary problem of bent/straight in which the one term always seems to be privledged over the other. But to be honest, I’ve always felt that I was the other’s other. I don’t quite understand gay men sometimes, particularly perhaps because this level of conversion would perhaps be irrelevant to many of them. In the meantime, I’m going to give vexed/vext a try and see how it fits.

  9. 12 Deirdre

    i love vexed because it’s tough, but tragic and poetic too, with a hidden softness. the tragic hero/heroine who will fight till the end… in summary – it kicks ass!

  10. Sometimes I feel like the constant finessing of terms holds things up rather than pushes the envelope forward. I mean, of the non-gays/non-queers/un-vext (non-vext? de-vext?) who have good social skills and/or who consider themselves to be progressive, in this historical moment, they will call us what we want to be called. But–and what comes to mind is the term ‘feminism,’ which to me is one of the most divisive terms for something that is supposed to signify something so broad and well-intentioned and–WHY would any woman not call herself a feminist?!?! And yet!–the more we argue over this kind of thing the more alienating it becomes for both gay people and for the non-gay people whose cooperation we want.

    However, I love vext. And I love ‘tossed about, as waves,’ which I’m going to take as a compliment, thank you.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lukas. I understand your point, and I think I was mostly writing as a philosophical exercise, rather than with a serious intention of coining a new phrase. In subsequent conversations, I’ve come to see the term as almost applying to anyone who doesn’t identify with the stereotypical attributes of their “identity,” if that makes sense, e.g., my Vietnamese (str8 female) friend doesn’t like “Asian” and was calling herself “vext,” which I also thought was kind of cool. But yes, I too love the poetic notion of being “tossed about, as waves,” which so nicely encapsulates so much of life!

  11. 15 Oh Sweet Nothing

    I don’t think that any of them function very well. It’s kind of an impossible battle because of our minority status; that is, the word ‘heterosexual’ or ‘straight’ can’t really have negative connotations or any strong connotations at all because it applies to such a large group of people. That fact that we are in the minority means that we are subject to generalizations. People tend to operate largely on their own experiences, which while normal behavior, often leads to “well every gay person I’ve met is…”. To compound the problem, there is the confirmation bias which makes it so that many will (often unknowingly) ignore examples counter to their beliefs.

    So until there are many different examples of the different types of non-heterosexuals, I think these problems will persist. I’d hope that eventually it becomes more of a “most are just like you and me” situation, but currently there are many barriers. Religiosity in particular.


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