The Last of Us star Bella Ramsey says gendered Emmy categories made them ‘uncomfortable’

Bella Ramsey wears a suit at the 2023 Met Gala.

The Last of Us star Bella Ramsey has joined a growing chorus of actors and performers calling for an end to gendered award categories.

Bella Ramsey, who mostly uses they/them pronouns, is one of numerous non-binary performers who have seen their star ascend in recent years. House of the Dragon’s Emma D’Arcy, pop icons Sam Smith and Janelle Monáe, and The Crown’s Emma Corrin, for example – the list of non-binary stars taking over the entertainment world is growing.

While some aspects of the entertainment industry seem to be severing ties with the gender binary by platforming incredible, gender nonconforming talent, one facet remains extremely gendered: award shows. 

All of the major awards, including the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys, are currently using ‘male’ and ‘female’ award categories, and a number of non-binary stars are beginning to take a stand.

Speaking to Vanity Fair about the issue, 19-year-old Ramsey revealed that while they entered themself into this this year’s Emmy consideration list for their role as Ellie in the post apocalyptic drama series The Last of Us, it was an “uncomfortable” decision to make.

The Last of Us star Bella Ramsey. (Getty)
Bella Ramsey as Ellie in The Last of Us. (Liane Hentscher/HBO)

“The categories at the moment feel extremely gendered with the language around them,” Bella Ramsey explained.

You may like to watch

“I don’t want the limitations in terms of the language in the categories to be a reason that non-binary actors like me can’t be celebrated… And it can open up a conversation about how it feels – as long as I’m aware of the fact that it’s not ideal, but also that finding alternatives is really complex.

“For [non-binary people] to have a say and be part of those discussions and those conversations, that’s really important… I just hope there’s more space for non-binary people to be recognised within [future] categories.”

The Brit Awards drew criticism earlier this year for deciding to remove gendered Best Male and Best Female artist categories, as the new Best Artist shortlist ended up being made up solely of male artists.

However, the British WhatsOnStage awards proved several months later that genderless awards can work, and can celebrate male, female and non-binary talent at the same time.

The conversation around gendered award categories has been burning for some time, but has gained particular momentum in the last year, following several notable non-binary actors speaking out against them.

Justin David Sullivan
Justin David Sullivan pulled out of the consideration process for the Tony Awards (Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)

In February, non-binary Broadway star Justin David Sullivan, who played May in & Juliet, withdrew from Tony Awards consideration due to there not being a suitable category for gender nonconfirming performers. Non-binary Billions actor Asia Kate Dillon also refused to be entered into Tony nominations last year.

Speaking to Vanity Fair for the first time since making the decision to opt out, Sullivan explained that it was a “heartbreaking” decision to make, but one they “stand by”.

“I’m not changing myself to conform or fit into anyone else’s rules,” Sullivan said, while Dillon told the publication that the conversation is getting louder, and more unavoidable.

Non-binary actors J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell.
Non-binary actors J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell are making queer history. (Getty/Bruce Glikas/Cindy Ord)

Earlier this month, Broadway actors J Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell made LGBTQ+ and Tony history by becoming the first non-binary actors to be nominated in the awards.

Both opted to be submitted into Best Actor rather than Best Actress categories, as the term “actor” is frequently used in a non-gendered sense.

However, both stars expressed a hope that award ceremonies would, in future, become more inclusive for those who identify outside of the male and female binary.

Please login or register to comment on this story.