Asia Kate Dillon has called on the Screen Actors Guild Awards to drop its gender-specific categories.
The 35-year-old Billions star made the request in an open letter to the SAG-AFRTA, after being invited to serve on the SAG Awards' motion picture nominating committee. Dillon, who identifies as gender non-binary, first appeared on Billions in 2017, portraying the first gender non-binary character on American TV.
"In late 2016, I publicly came out as non-binary, meaning I’m not male or female, or man or womxn," Dillon wrote in the letter published by Variety. "I use they, them, their pronouns. 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 letter goes on to reference Dillon's 2017 Critics Choice Awards nomination in the Supporting Actor category, stating the decision initially made them feel "respected in my identity." However, since that time, Dillon has recognized "that being submitted or nominated within categories that reinforce the gender-binary should have been met with my outright rejection of those nominations, alongside calling for change."
Dillon also points out that the acting categories are the only ones that are separated by "male" and "female," as categories like Best Director and Best Cinematographer are gender-neutral.
"The distinction between male and female acting categories was implemented as a means of combating the chronic and systemic overlooking of cis-women, particularly white cis-women, when it came to acting awards," they continued. "... 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. 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."
Toward the end of the letter, Dillon notes that the MTV Movie & TV Awards nixed gender-specific categories in 2017, the same year they presented the first gender-neutral acting award to Emma Watson.
"I would be thrilled to serve as a judge, provided you take immediate action to combine your acting awards into gender-neutral categories," Dillon wrote. "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."
You can read the full letter here.