QUEER VOICES

Emmys Tell Non-Binary Star They Can Choose Their Award Category

Kudos to Asia Kate Dillon for making history!

“Billions” star Asia Kate Dillon continues to blaze Hollywood trails. Dillon, who plays the /www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/billions-gender-non-binary-character_us_58531cf5e4b08debb78842cb"}}" data-beacon-parsed="true">first gender non-binary character on a mainstream television show, just helped clarify the Television Academy’s submission rules for Emmy Awards consideration, Variety reported Wednesday.

The “Orange is the New Black” veteran, who also identifies as gender non-binary offscreen and uses the pronoun “they” for identification, has received almost universal praise since joining “Billions” in its second season. But they encountered an issue when the Showtime asked them how they would like their work to be submitted for Emmys consideration. 

Unable to find a suitable answer, they wrote an impassioned letter to the Television Academy, which was excerpted by Variety. It read in part: 

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? 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?” 

Much to Dillon’s surprise, the Academy responded to their letter promptly, and said they would be “free to choose the category they wish to enter.”

A Television Academy spokesperson confirmed to Variety that it had conducted a “productive dialogue” with Dillon. “The Television Academy celebrates inclusiveness, and as we discussed with Asia, there is no gender requirement for the various performer categories,” the spokesperson said. “Asia is free to choose the category they wish to enter.”

Dillon, who ultimately chose to submit their work for supporting actor consideration, was pleased with the response. On Thursday, they tweeted their praise.  

Dillon, who hails from Ithaca, New York, told The Huffington Post in December that they were here to “change the game” in regard to portrayals of gender non-binary folk in popular culture. “As someone who is non-binary gender identifying, I feel a particular responsibility to portray members of my community on stage and on screen,” they said, “not only as fully fleshed-out characters who are integral to the plot, but as characters whose gender identity is just one of many parts that make up the whole person.” 

Thrilled to see you fulfilling that vow, Asia! 

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