Openly Non-Binary Actor Challenges Emmys on Binary Acting Categories

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The first openly non-binary actor in a major television series has challenged the Television Academy on the Emmy Awards’ male and female categories.

Asia Kate Dillon plays Taylor Mason in Showtime’s “Billions,” a character that also identifies as non-binary. Showtime chose to nominate Dillon for an Emmy Award, but were not sure whether to submit them for “best supporting actor” or “best supporting actress.”

When Showtime reached out to Dillon to see what they preferred, they wrote a letter to the Academy for more information.

"I'd like to know if in your eyes 'actor' and 'actress' denote anatomy or identity and why it is necessary to denote either in the first place?,” they wrote in a letter according to Variety. “The reason I'm hoping to engage you in a conversation about this is because if the categories of 'actor' and 'actress' are in fact supposed to represent 'best performance by a person who identifies as a woman' and 'best performance by a person who identifies as a man' then there is no room for my identity within that award system binary. Furthermore, if the categories of 'actor' and 'actress' are meant to denote assigned sex I ask, respectfully, why is that necessary?"

The Academy responded, stating "anyone can submit under either category for any reason," meaning that they do not “check” the gender identity or sex of the nominee.

Ultimately, Dillon chose the supporting actor nomination.

"Given the choice between actor and actress, actor is a non-gendered word that I use," Dillon said. "That's why I chose actor."

"We are happy with our productive dialogue with Asia based on their very thoughtful letter," a TV Academy spokesperson told Variety. "The Television Academy celebrates inclusiveness, and as we discussed with Asia, there is no gender requirement for the various performer categories. Asia is free to choose the category they wish to enter."


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