Emmy Awards to finally recognise non-binary performers with new gender-neutral option

Emmy awards

Emmy nominees will now have the option to use the gender-neutral term “performer”, the TV Academy has announced.

Starting with the Daytime Emmy Awards next month, nominees in any category will be able to choose the non-gendered description on their nomination certificate rather than “actor” or “actress”. Likewise, winners can ask for their statuette to use the gender-neutral option.

The Academy will still use actor, actress, supporting actor and supporting actress in its categories, but the move will now allow each individual to choose how they wish to be identified.

“No performer category titled ‘actor’ or ‘actress’ has ever had a gender requirement for submissions,” the Television Academy said in a statement on Monday (21 June).

“Now, nominees and (or) winners in any performer category titled ‘actor’ or ‘actress’ may request that their nomination certificate and Emmy statuette carry the term ‘performer’ in place of ‘actor’ or ‘actress’.”

The push for gender-neutral Emmy awards was led by Billions star Asia Kate Dillon, who’s widely considered to be the first non-binary performer to play a non-binary character on a major TV show.

Back in 2017 the actor penned an impassioned letter to the TV Academy highlighting their concern that there seemed to be “no room for my identity” at the awards ceremony.

“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 asked.

The Academy was “100 per cent supportive” of their concerns and pointed to existing rules which state that “anyone can submit under either category for any reason”.

Dillon was offered their own gender category but opted for the existing “supporting actor” category, because “given the choice between actor and actress, actor is a non-gendered word that I use”.

The new “performer” designation creates more room for non-binary actors like Dillon, while also moving away from the sexist origins of segregating nominees by gender.

While the Emmys is certainly the biggest awards ceremony to make the jump, they’re not the first: the MTV Movie & TV Awards and the TCA Awards already have their own non-gendered categories.

MTV successfully introduced the change in 2017, presenting its first gender-neutral acting award to Emma Watson.

Meanwhile the TCA’s “individual achievement in drama” award dates back to 1997, with the most recent nominees including Cate Blanchett (Mrs America), Mark Ruffalo (I Know This Much Is True) and Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul).