The Emmys just got a much-need update — and Billions star Asia Kate Dillon just won a huge victory for non-binary people everywhere. Dillon, who plays finance prodigy Taylor Mason on season 2 of the sleek Showtime drama, had their sex assigned as female at birth, but today identifies their gender as non-binary, just like their Billions character. When it came time to submit actors for Emmys nominations, the network asked Dillon if they preferred to be entered in the category for "Best Supporting Actor" or "Best Supporting Actress." So Dillon did a little studying up and started a long-overdue conversation with the Television Academy.
"What I learned through my research is that the word ‘actor,’ specifically in reference to those who performed in plays, came about in the late 1500s as a non-gendered word," Dillon told Variety this week. "It applied to all people, regardless of anatomical sex or gender identity." The term "actress" came about later to specifically denote actors who were female.
Variety excerpts the letter Dillon then penned to the TV Academy. "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?" they wrote. "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?"
The reply that Dillon received? The category they choose is 100% their prerogative. "The Academy supports anyone’s choice to do that, and the Academy is not going to do any sort of check," explained Dillon, who also tweeted out about the ruling. "I found them to be 100% supportive," they added. "I really couldn’t have been happier."
So, what did Dillon ultimately decide? Given the gender-neutral roots of the term, Dillon went with actor. "Given the choice between actor and actress, actor is a non-gendered word that I use," they said. "That’s why I chose actor." Sounds like a simple enough choice to us — and one that was theirs to make all along.
Now, we're crossing our fingers Dillon scores the nomination. And hopefully, other industry organizations and awards shows will follow suit in the near future.