After Showtime submitted their name for Emmy consideration in 2017, nonbinary Billions actor Asia Kate Dillon made headlines by challenging binary-gender conventions and asking to be nominated under the supporting actor category as the term “actor” is a gender-neutral description for theater players. This move led to Dillon gratefully having their identity recognized by the Critics Choice Awards who included them in the supporting actor that same year without requiring a formal request.
However, Dillon’s activism is far from over. After being selected to serve on the 27th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Motion Picture Nominating Committee, they wrote an open letter in Variety asking the SAG Awards to end the practice of separating actors into binary-gender categories. According to Dillon, the notion behind the categories is antiquated and fails to prevent discrimination.
The distinction between male and female acting categories was implemented as a means of combating the chronic and systemic overlooking of cis-women, particulary white cis-women, when it came to acting awards. This was despite the fact that there were no other categories similarly revised (as in directoress, best female or best male director/cinematographer/sound designer, etc.) I say “particularly white cis-women” because it’s important to note how dangerous it has been to defend the separation of male and female acting categories, as well as other awards shows’ use of the actress category, as being motivated by wanting representation for all womxn (cis and trans alike). In fact, Black, POC, indigenous, trans, and disabled womxn are still the most underrepresented groups at any awards show.
As Dillon notes, gender-neutral categories have already been implemented at the MTV Movie & TV Awards where the actor had the honor of presenting the first gender-neutral acting award to Emma Watson. If SAG were to make a similar move by abolishing binary categories, it would send a powerful message to “non-binary and gender non-conforming members.” But until that decision is made, Dillon will not be participating in the nominating committee. As of this writing, the Screen Actors Guild has yet to comment.