Elijah McKinnon wears many different hats and takes up a lot of space. When I was first introduced to McKinnon, it was many moons ago but under the context of their consulting agency, People Who Care. I had recently entered the “Chicago Scene” and I walked into an event right as Elijah was speaking about their work and their current need for collaborators. I have never shared this with Elijah but that moment was very surreal and inspiring. I was still fairly new to the ‘scene’ and seeing them on stage, demanding everyone’s attention was something that I had yet to master but longed for. A year or so later, Elijah and I finally connected. It was a casual “meet and greet” and introduction really. We decided to collaborate on a project for one of his clients and it was then that I started to see one of their many hats. At this time I only knew of Elijah under the lens of People Who Care and Reunion Chicago, which is an art gallery, event space and project incubator located in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. Co-founded with event/cultural producer Kristen Kaza. The space opened its doors in 2016 with a mission to provide a collaborative and grounding environment for queer, people of color and femme-identified individuals in creative roles. Chicago is a divided city and queer black folks do not have a lot of space to exist. Reunion Chicago allows black queer folks as much space as they can provide.
I sat down with Elijah at their home in Humboldt Park, a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. Every time I start an interview I always have the person I’m chatting with properly pronounce and spell their first and last name along with their preferred pronouns. So, when I prompted Elijah with my normal routine their response was “My pronouns are open and celebratory, things like Beyoncé, they/them, Queen, Goddess, Beautiful, Highest Deity, things like that.” Curious and unprepared by their response I wanted to know the “why” behind it. I’ve never heard anyone respond to a question about their pronouns in that manner. I was then informed that they adopted “Open and Celebratory” from one of their queer mothers, Darling Shear or also known as “The Empress.” That led us on a conversation about their own gender identity/expression and navigating that spectrum. “ I identify as nonbinary/gender non-conforming but I’ve reached a point where I’ve transcended beyond that spectrum of labeling. I think being gender non-conforming and non binary exists on a spectrum.” They continued to explain that they don’t ever feel male nor female but are always on constant pursuit of their highest self.
“My pronouns are open and celebratory, things like Beyoncé, they/them, Queen, Goddess, Beautiful, Highest Deity, things like that.”
When thinking about Elijah in the professional space, you have to understand their identity and how much space they take up. During our conversation it was made very clear that they do not negotiate their identity, especially when it comes to their professional space. “I am so confident and comfortable in my identity now.” They then went on to explain, “My work and my practice is consistent and people only fuck with me because they know what they’re getting.” Due to the consistency of their work, people are coming to them to work and not the other way around. It’s confidence, self assurance and self worth that allows Elijah not to negotiate the space they take up nor their identity.