Another Award Show Is Becoming More Inclusive Toward Nonbinary Performers

The Film Independent Spirit Awards is one of the largest Hollywood award bodies to shift to gender-neutral acting categories.
Affonso Goncalves, from left, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Osnat Handelsman-Keren and Talia Kleinhendler accept the award for best feature for "The Lost Daughter" at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 6.
Affonso Goncalves, from left, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Osnat Handelsman-Keren and Talia Kleinhendler accept the award for best feature for "The Lost Daughter" at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 6.
via Associated Press

Beginning this fall, the Film Independent Spirit Awards will have gender-neutral acting awards, becoming one of the largest Hollywood awards bodies so far to make the shift away from the increasingly antiquated practice of splitting acting awards into gendered categories.

“We’re thrilled to join the other festivals and award shows that are already moving to celebrate great acting without reference to gender. We’re also happy to welcome non-binary performers into the Spirit Awards without forcing them to choose to identify as male or female,” Film Independent’s president Josh Welsh said Tuesday in a statement announcing the move.

Held each year, usually just before the Oscars, the Spirit Awards honor the best independent and lower-budget movies and TV shows. The organization now joins the Grammys, the MTV Movie and TV Awards, the Gotham Awards and the British Independent Film Awards, which, in recent years, have all done away with separate male and female categories. Historically, these gendered categories have generally only existed for acting and performance awards, and not for virtually any other awards for behind-the-camera roles.

"Zola" star Taylour Paige at the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 6.
"Zola" star Taylour Paige at the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 6.
Michael Kovac via Getty Images

In recent years, more people in Hollywood have started to push awards bodies to correct this discrepancy, pointing out that it can exclude nonbinary performers and forces them to choose to identify as either male or female when submitting themselves for awards consideration.

“All of us are artists and it doesn’t really matter what genital is attached to which artist,” “Grey’s Anatomy” star E.R. Fightmaster, who is nonbinary, told the Los Angeles Times last month. “It really should not matter what we look like when we are naked. … It should just be the art we are making.”

In 2017, “Billions” star Asia Kate Dillion, who is nonbinary, began calling on major awards bodies to revise their gendered acting categories.

So far, many of the biggest, such as the Emmys, Oscars and Screen Actors Guild Awards, have yet to follow suit, despite nominating nonbinary performers. For instance, last year, “Hacks” star Carl Clemons-Hopkins became the first openly nonbinary actor to be nominated for an Emmy.

Starting with this year’s Spirit Awards, the lead and supporting film acting categories will now named Best Lead Performance and Best Supporting Performance. Similarly, the television acting awards will be named Best Lead Performance and Best Supporting Performance in a New Scripted Series. Each new category will contain 10 nominees, to account for the previous arrangement of 5 nominees in each of the male and female categories.

The film nominations for the 2023 Spirit Awards will be announced on Nov. 22, and TV nominations will be announced Dec. 13. The ceremony will be held on March 4, 2023.

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