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Asia Kate Dillon Asks SAG to Drop Gendered Acting Awards

Non-binary star of Billions and Orange is the New Black writes letter asking SAG to remove gender-specific classifications from acting awards.

Asia Kate Dillion, the gender nonbinary star of HBO’s hit series Billions, has sent a letter to the Screen Actors Guild (SGA) questioning their continued use of gender-specific categories for their SAG Awards. The star’s letter asks the guild to take “immediate action to combine your acting awards into gender-neutral categories,” according to an exclusive report from Variety.

“Separating people based on their assigned sex, and/or their gender identity, is not only irrelevant when it comes to how an acting performance should be judged, it is also a form of discrimination,” Dillon wrote in the letter dated June 10. “Not only do your current categories erase non-binary identities by limiting performers to identifying as male or female / man or womxn ( which not all SAG members, like myself, do), they also serve as an endorsement of the gender binary at large, which actively upholds other forms of discrimination, including racism, the patriarchy, and gender violence.”

Dillon made entertainment history when they became the first gender nonbinary actor to portray a nonbinary character on a major TV show. They play the role of hedge fund manager Taylor Mason on Billions. They had earlier played the role of the racist white supremacist Brandi Epps on Orange is the New Black, another HBO hit series.

Initially, SAG had reached out to Dillon, asking them to serve as a judge on the 27th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Motion Picture Nominating Committee. They were asked to judge performances of male actors in lead and supporting roles, and female actors in a supporting role, as well as two other gender-neutral categories. Dillon took issue with the gender classification, questioning whether the need still exists for the binary framework for acting awards.

“The distinction between male and female acting categories was implemented as a means of combating the chronic and systemic overlooking of cis-women, particulary (sic) white cis-women, when it came to acting awards,” they explained in their letter, noting there were no similar gender-specific awards for “director/cinematographer/sound designer, etc.”

Previously Dillon had worked with the Emmy board regarding their gender-specific awards. The board told them Emmy rules allow performer to enter “either category for any reason.” This time around, Dillon is advocating for the elimination of gender-specific categories altogether.

“Not only is it possible to combine all of your leading and supporting nominees into the same gender-neutral categories, there is precedent,” Dillon wrote. “On May 7, 2017, I presented the first gender-neutral acting award, to Emma Watson, at the MTV Movie & TV Awards, noting, ‘It’s so cool to be here presenting the first acting award ever that celebrates performance free of any gender distinctions. Tonight we celebrate portrayals of the human experience, because the only distinction we should be making when it comes to awards is between each outstanding performance.’”

Dillon closed by noting they would be “thrilled to serve as a judge, provided you take immediate action to combine your acting awards into gender-neutral categories. This courageous and overdue step from my union would send a wide message that SAG not only supports me but supports all its non-binary and gender non-conforming members.”

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