Asia Kate Dillon's Emmys Question Is So Important

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Asia Kate Dillon's performance as financial wunderkind Taylor Mason on Billions has put them on the short list for this year's Emmy contenders. But when Showtime asked which category Dillon would like to be submitted under, the non-binary star was frustrated by the limited choice between “supporting actor” and “supporting actress." So, Dillon challenged the Emmys' male-female acting categories by asking the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences why, exactly, such a distinction is even necessary.

As they wrote in their letter to the Academy, per Variety:

“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?”

Variety reports that the Academy replied promptly, explaining that their rules for the acting categories do not specify any gender qualification and “anyone can submit under either category for any reason." Dillon was pleased with the response, and ultimately chose to enter as an actor, since the word is commonly used in non-gendered contexts.

“I found [the Academy] to be 100 percent supportive,” Dillon told Variety of the exchange. “I really couldn’t have been happier.”

Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME

Still, Dillon highlights an important perspective as calls for more diversity in Hollywood begin to louden. Much of the conversation has been centered around greater inclusivity for women and people of color, but those who don't identify within the gender binary need to be part of the conversation, too.

And Dillon isn't the only one taking notice. On Thursday, the MTV Movie & TV Awards announced a major change: Starting this year, they will no longer feature gendered categories. Instead, "Best Actor" will honor performers of all genders, while the "Best Actress" category — at least at this particular awards show — will cease to exist. The same modification applies to Best Actor in a Show, Best Host, Best Villain, Best Hero, and Best Comedic Performance.

Between Dillon and MTV, perhaps we can move toward a more progressive dialogue about gender within the film and television industry.