Queering Burger Joints

I spend a substantial amount of time on Tumblr mostly avoiding thesis  but also because some amazing posts can be found there. The other day I was perusing my dashboard and this post and the commentary came up:




All over this burgers and hot dogs chain restaurant are signs saying they proudly do not have trans fats in their restaurant, as well as cork boards, paper, and crayons to tell em how much you just love their burgers and hot dogs (rolling my eyes hard). This incredible and gorgeous friend decided they needed to insert their own faggotry into the cork (lol) and that is how this wonderful GIF came to exist.

haha omg this is what i look like when i am eating fries with one of my favorite people on the whole planet

“no trans fats in your restaurant? UR WRONG THO”

This is delightful.

Just needed a lil feral-femme on my blog again ❤

There is so much that I love about this picture and the commentary that I will attempt to explain in the following blog post. As you can read in the above commentary, the chain of fast food restaruants that the person in the pictures is eating at has signs posted stating that they have no “trans fats” in their restaurant.  In this class I have learned of the many ways in which discrusive spaces and identity practices manifest themselves. The picture was taken then posted on the cork boards located in the restaraunt encouraging folks to tell them how much they love the food they were served. Well, the aforementioned words have multiple meanings, right? Trans fats are known as the fatty acids found in some food, particularly in processed foods and can cause one to have high cholesterol, however, the word has other meanings as well. As the commentary suggests, trans is the abbreviation for transgender and the fats is the plural for what is described as fat (there is a whole field of scholarship on fat politics of which I remain woefully ignorant so you’ll have to excuse me). As we have seen in Queer Latinidad, queering language is extremely significant in challenging normative ways of thinking and identification. The picture and commentary do just that!!! Much like the  Proyecto plays with language, so too does the person in this picture but it is more than just playing. In so doing, they are challenging normative ways of thinking and making people think twice about the use of the words “trans fats”. 

The space that they find themselves in is effectively queered because they end up posting the picture to the cork boards telling everyone who has the pleasure of seeing the wonderful picture that trans fats have multiple meanings. They queer the shit out of those cork boards in such an amazing and playful way that I cannot even handle it! This is the “y que?” way of responding to the “hail”; it becomes identity with a difference and is done so in a space that one might not expect it, in a fast food joint. As Jose Estaban Muñoz states, “Disidentifications is mean to offer a lens to eludcidate minoritarian politics that is not monocausal or monothematic, one tha tis calibrated to discern a multiplicity of interlocking identity components and the ways in which they affect the social” (1999, 8). Adding to theorists conceptualizations of interlocking identity components is the fat politics that is being addressed in both the picture and the commentary. The person is adding to discussions and conceptualizations of intersectionality by addressing fatness as part of an identity, one that is continuously under attack and scrutinized in the U.S. The person is making their presence known and felt in the fast food establishment by putting a non-normative picture on their board. Even the use of the word faggotry is reclaiming of a word that is typically pejorative and putting it all over the burger chain.

I would also like to draw attention to the heart drawn on the piece of paper and the use of gender inclusive symbols that come from it. Instead of being stuck in the binary, the heart becomes gender neutral, which is awesome. The commentary and the picture are so delightful because of the way in which they are queering the space using language and identity that they are gifted with. I don’t really know what else to say that I haven’t already said or that the picture doesn’t already say itself. Language becomes a tool with which spaces and the word themselves are effectively queered and often in ways that are humorous. This will make people think twice about the multiple meanings of the words trans and fat while also providing an outlet for the person in the picture to express themselves.

Queer Latinidad and Static Categories (?)

“The focus of this chapter is on analyzing the ways Proyecto represents and names itself and the communities it serves in the public arena, and how these practices of self-representation circumvent some of the pitfalls and limitations of identity politics. I argue that Proyecto is involved in forging a new type of identity project based on ideas, affiliation, and alignment rather than on static categories of race, gender, culture or sexuality” (Rodríguez, 48).

I selected this section in the book because it caused the most dissonance for me. I am particularly drawing attention to the parts that Rodriguez states that culture is static. I recognize that she is referencing “strategic essentialism” that identity politics falls into and the erasure of queer people that this kind of activism and politics fall into; however, I think an intervention is necessary.

Rodriguez writes a compelling and engaging book that highlights the ways in which identity practices operate in varying discursive spaces. The majority of her book moves away from the notion of collective identity and into the realm of individual identity. She states that identity is a process; never static, and we are all subjects-in-process.  Unfortunately, she also states, “Proyecto’s Spanglish poem-manifesto-mission statement reflects a disinvestment in static concepts of language, culture, and gender and mirrors the agency’s irreverent style of community organizing and education” (54). Her suggestions that language, culture, and gender are static concepts seem to be contradictory to her first chapter.

Stuart Hall writes that there are two ways ‘cultural identity’ is understood:  “the first position define ‘cultural identity’ in terms of one, shared culture, a sort of collective ‘one true self’, hiding inside the many other, more superficial or artificially imposed ‘selves’, which people with a shared history and ancestry hold in common” (Hall 223). This definition is the one that Rodriguez seems to be writing about when she states that culture is ‘static’; however, it is the second understanding of cultural identity that Rodriguez does not seem to revisit. The second understanding of cultural identity that Hall articulates, is similar to the way in which Rodriguez articulates identity as a process and never static. Hall states that cultural identity in the second way of understanding it is a process, a “mater of ‘becoming’ as well as of ‘being. It belongs to the future as much as to the past. It is not something which already exists, transcending place, time, history and culture. Cultural identities come from somewhere, have histories” (Hall 324). In short, it is always in process and never static.  Simply put, if identity is dynamic, why isn’t culture?

I do not intend to suggest that Rodríguez is wrong but rather, that saying culture is static is limiting and somewhat contradictory to the claims that are being made about identity practices in the remainder of the book. Cultural identities are positioned and influenced within the histories and cultures from which they are expressed. Everything is identity politics. Even though Rodríguez states that identity politics erases queer identities, which is a valid claim with which I agree, but what then is queerness? Is it not an identity? By disassociating it from identity politics, is there some kind of essentialism taking place? What do we make of colonialism and its influence on native people’s cultures if claims are made that culture is static?

Rodríguez does a magnificent job in this book in queering lantinidad, by challenging the preconceived notions of what constitutes Latin@s. To suggest that the aforementioned categories are static, does not reflect the complexities inherent in them. But it also seems that the author understands the complexities of the aforementioned categories throughout her book because she continuously signals to the site of contradictions that constitute identity practices and discursive spaces; they are continuously being produced and reproduced.

As both Rodríguez and Hall point out, identity is messy and complex. There are continuous attempts to define the indefinable because identity is always in process, never fixed and never already decided. Cultural identity, and by extension, culture and history, must be central in any discussion if we are to ever understand the way identity is imagined and reimagined. As Hall states, “As recent theories of enunciation suggest that, though we speak, so to say ‘in our own name’, of ourselves and from our own experience, nevertheless who speaks, and the subject who is spoken of, are never identical, never exactly in the same place…we all write and speak from a particular place and time, from a history and culture which is specific” (Hall 222). Both Hall and Rodríguez understand the complex nature of identity and mostly have similar understandings of identity.

Queer Latinidad is fantastically written and an insightful piece of scholarship. I am simply providing a different lens from which to analyze the language and framework that seem to limit and contradict Rodríguez’s overarching arguments. This blog post is not a critique but a conversation with the ideas and words in Queer Latinidad.

Stuart Hall. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”. FrameworkNo. 36