Last year, the world saw the first openly non-binary identifying actor land a role in a major television series. As Asia Kate Dillon discovered their gender identity, their character Taylor was already secure in their pronouns “they,” “them” and “their.” Likewise, viewers of Showtime's “Billions” grew an understanding of people who don’t necessarily fit into the gender binaries of man and woman.
SFGN’s coverage of Dillon was one of our top stories of 2017. In celebration, we invited Dillon to an interview discussing their discovery of their gender identity, reactions from castmates and fans, advice to people who look up to Dillon and their goals for the future.
SFGN: On your segment with Ellen DeGeneres, you mentioned you didn't identify as non-binary until you learned about Taylor in “Billions.” When did you first realize you didn't fall under existing gender binaries?
AKD: I felt ambiguous about my gender identity from a young age. I remember shortly after seeing the film “Oliver!” understanding so badly that I wanted to play that part, but that I would never be able to because I was a ‘girl’ and Oliver was a ‘boy.’
Following up on that, how did you identify yourself prior?
I've always known I didn't fit within the gender binary but prior to being cast in Taylor I didn't have words to identify myself. I identify with the LGBTQIA community so [I] used that broad spectrum when asked.
How were you treated on the set of "Billions" and your other roles in terms of identity? That is to say, have you experienced issues with incorrect pronouns, whether intentionally or accidentally? How do you handle that sort of thing?
This is a new concept for a lot of people so I expect a bit of a learning curve whenever I'm on a new set. But I must say that I feel very supported from everyone on the cast and crew to the show runners who created the character of Taylor. I don't mind when someone accidentally misgenders me. If someone says "she" or "he," and it’s unintentional, I can tell if it’s coming from a place of love. It’s only when someone misgenders me on purpose that it becomes hurtful.
How was your experience with fan reaction over playing a non-binary character?
The fan's reactions have been inspirational. Many people had not been introduced to the concept of non-binary and it helped them understand themselves or others in their life. Just being able to represent I think is helpful. Sometimes you have to see the thing to know that it exists. Maybe there's a queer person in a town but they don’t feel comfortable or safe coming out, frankly, and the only representation they feel that they have or connection they have is on television or in a movie, and that’s really powerful.
What advice would you give to young people discovering their identity?
Just remember that you're not alone. We are all unique but we share the same hopes, fears, dreams and insecurities. Reach out and connect with people, whether they are in your own community or halfway around the world on social media.
What's next? Do you have a next goal to strive towards?
I’m committed to all of my work continuing to support and uplift historically marginalized and historically disenfranchised people. I want to keep honing my craft and look forward to other meaty roles, whether it is on television, in film, or back to my theater roots.