Kevin Kantor is a professional actor who has traveled across the United States and is currently starring in “The Legend of Georgia McBride” at a local theater in Gainesville. Throughout the play Kantor plays both a manly married man and a sassy young drag queen, slipping between masculine and feminine identities from scene to scene.
Kantor’s co-stars don’t miss a beat as they address Kantor’s characters with their appropriate male or female pronouns.
Offstage however, Kantor is genderqueer and uses they/them pronouns — which the other actors, and most other people, seem to have a hard time remembering.
“Even in this space, I know that every single person I work with knows that I’m genderqueer and use they/them/they’re pronouns, but I give them a D minus in how often they actually call me by my correct pronouns,” Kantor said. “I don’t correct them because I don’t have the time to.”
Kantor came out as genderqueer when they were 23 during a tour of the country as a spoken word poet, in which they educated students on queerness, rape culture, survivorship and toxic masculinity.
During that year on tour, Kantor was faced with their male identity — they spoke of male survivorship from an experience of past abuse, but the constant alignment with that male narrative began to wear on Kantor.
“It was constantly having my maleness and that identity for an entire year that I began to realize that there wasn’t an identity that I aligned with,” Kantor said. "It wasn’t until being hit in the head with the binary that I realized I existed outside of it.”
Kantor is a member of the genderqueer community, a term coined in 1990 used to describe “those who ‘queered’ gender by defying oppressive gender norms in the course of their binary-defying activism,” according to slate.com.
The genderqueer community recognizes gender to be a spectrum instead of a binary, and those who identify as genderqueer simply exist along that spectrum.
Jordan Miller, a grad student in Atlanta who uses the pronoun ‘zirself’ said, “Genderqueer is about acknowledging that gender expression and identity is not binary, that there are more than just two genders.”
There are countless terms associated with gender — masc, femme, agender, bigender, pangender — and that doesn’t include unique pronouns.
Though the genderqueer and gender non binary communities open up the possibility for a plethora of new identities, accommodating those new identities shouldn’t be difficult or complicated. All it takes is the patience to understand someone's identity. And while it can be easy to slip into the male or female pronouns we are familiar with, our grammar should not dictate someone’s identity.
“Explaining pronouns should be common practice. I think everyone should introduce themselves with their preferred pronouns, it’s only polite,” Kantor said. “My life matters more than your grammar.”
The LGBT community is certainly familiar with opposing expectations and securing unorthodox identities, and genderqueer and nonbinary identities fit right in.
“The reason I like genderqueer is because it lets you break the rules. It’s my way of telling people that I see the rules of gender and I am actively subverting them,” Kantor said. “They are rules that have been invented by society and we are not bound to them. Placing value along those lines gets in the way of equity.”
For more information on genderqueer and nonbinary identities, as well as discussion spaces and resources visit http://genderqueerid.com/.