Emmys to allow winners to use gender-neutral term ‘performer’ instead of ‘actor,’ ‘actress’

The stars up for trophies on TV’s biggest night can opt to forego “actor” and “actress” titles and request their nomination certificates and Emmy statues use the gender-neutral term “performer” instead.

Is this the beginning of the end for “best actor” and “best actress” on television? Possibly. The change comes amid calls for awards bodies to get with the times as more people come out with nonbinary gender identities.

Asia Kate Dillon, who is nonbinary and plays a nonbinary character on Showtime’s “Billions,” has been an outspoken advocate for industry change. They wrote an open letter to the SAG Awards last June to do away with gender-specific categories.

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Actor Asia Kate Dillon speaks onstage during the 2017 MTV Movie And TV Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on May 7, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo: Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images)

“Not only is it possible to combine all of your leading and supporting nominees into the same gender-neutral categories, there is precedent,” Dillon wrote. “On May 7, 2017, I presented the first gender-neutral acting award, to Emma Watson, at the MTV Movie & TV Awards, noting, ‘It’s so cool to be here presenting the first acting award ever that celebrates performance free of any gender distinctions. Tonight we celebrate portrayals of the human experience, because the only distinction we should be making when it comes to awards is between each outstanding performance.'”

SAG did not honor the request.

The Television Academy noted in its recent announcement: “No performer category titled ‘actor’ or ‘actress’ has ever had a gender requirement for submissions.”

Earlier this year, the Berlin Film Festival handed out gender-neutral awards for acting categories in both leading and supporting performances. 

The festival announced last August that it would stop awarding separate acting prizes to women and men beginning in 2021.

“Not separating the awards in the acting field according to gender comprises a signal for a more gender-sensitive awareness in the film industry,” co-heads of the festival, Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, said in a statement when announcing the change. 

Contributing: Associated Press

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