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Emmys Take Small Step to Recognize Nonbinary Performers

Emma Watson, left, wears a shimmering dress and holds a popcorn-box style award as Asia Kate Dillon, with close cropped hair and level jacket and pants, hugs Watson.
Asia Kate Dillon presents Emma Watson an award at 2017's MTV Movie & TV Awards. Dillon, a nonbinary performer, wants the Emmys to change its gendered award categories.
( Kevork Djansezian
Getty Images )
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Like almost all Hollywood award ceremonies, the Emmys divide acting trophies between “actor” and “actress.” But that black-and-white distinction doesn’t work for nonbinary performers, and now there’s change afoot.

Starting with this year’s show, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will allow nominees and winners to use the word “performer” instead of “actor” or “actress” on their Emmy nomination certificates or trophies.

“No performer category titled ‘actor’ or ‘actress’ has ever had a gender requirement for submissions,” the academy said in a statement, which certainly doesn’t represent Emmy Awards history.

While the TV academy will retain the gendered categories for now — such as best actor, best supporting actress — the move does open the door for a possible redefinition of performer categories.

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There is no room for my identity within that award system binary.
— Asia Kate Dillon

The MTV Movie & TV Awards and the Television Critics Assn.’s TCA Awards recently added non-gendered acting categories.

The new Emmy option comes four years after Asia Kate Dillon, a non-binary performer who plays a non-binary character on Showtime’s “Billions,” asked the TV academy to reconsider its acting definitions.

“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?,” Dillon said at the time. “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.”

Separately, the TV academy changed a rule that allowed documentaries to compete for both an Academy Award and an Emmy. The climbing documentary “Free Solo” won trophies in both contests two years ago.

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