Billions star Asia Kate Dillon is calling for the elimination of gender-specific categories at the SAG Awards.
In an open letter to three members of the SAG-AFRTA’s SAG Awards committee, Dillon, who is non-binary, issued the request in response to an invitation that they serve on the nominating committee for several major categories, including female actor in a leading role and male actor in a leading role.
Dillon writes that they have been very public about their pronouns since they came out as non-binary in 2016. (In 2017, in fact, they wrote the Television Academy asking for clarification on which category they should submit to for Emmy consideration.) From the letter:
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. 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.
The reason the distinction between genders was made in the first place was ostensibly to ensure that cis-women—particularly white cis-women—were considered when it came to doling out awards, though of course categories like “best director” and “best cinematographer” remained gender-neutral. But that alleged system of fairness doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, Dillon writes:
In fact, Black, POC, indigenous, trans, and disabled womxn are still the most underrepresented groups at any awards show. And yet, if SAG, or the Academy, or the Emmys, or the Critics Choice Awards, decided to combat that underrepresentation by creating Best Black/POC/Indigenous actress in a leading/supporting role, that action would resoundingly read as what it was: racist and discriminatory.
There is already precedent for gender-neutral acting awards: In 2017, MTV did away with separate categories, and Dillon presented Emma Watson with the best actor award for her work in Beauty and the Beast.
Dillon concluded that they would be delighted to serve as a judge, so long as the awards are combined 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,” they wrote.