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But there was just one problem. The network wasn’t sure whether to submit Dillon for best actor or best actress. Like the character Mason, Dillon identifies as neither male nor female and uses the pronouns “they” and “them.”
Gender identity: A person’s internal, deeply held sense of their gender.
Source: Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Asia Kate Dillon: Well, as it turned out, I didn’t have to come up with a gender in order to be submitted. So it ended up sitting quite well, actually.
According to the Academy rules, they’ve always stated that … any performer can submit under either category for any reason, and that the Academy is not going to do any kind of anatomical or gender identity check.
And so knowing that information, and using the findings of other research I’d done into the etymology, the origin, of the words “actor” and “actress,” I decided to go with “actor,” because it is a non-gendered, non-sexed word from the late 1500s referring to performers in plays, specifically.
AKD: Well, I will be in a category, as far as I know, with people who self-identify as men. But that doesn’t mean that I know anything about, you know, the anatomical sex of the other people who are going to be submitted alongside me, which I think is really important.
So I think that when you have someone who is sort of outside the norm of what we’ve seen of that world stepping into that world and then we get to watch them navigate that world, I think that’s what’s exciting about Taylor’s journey.
I have received tweets from self-identified white, straight, cisgendered men who have openly said, you know, ‘I knew nothing about non-binary identity, I’m a Republican, I’m 65 years old, but you and your character have opened my eyes.’ So yeah, that’s been extraordinarily gratifying.
CO: When you first read the script for Billions and the description of this character, what did you think?
Since I do research into every aspect of a character I play, I looked up those words and I had an ah-ha moment, where I realized, you know, female … referring to anatomical sex, non-binary, referring to gender identify. I was assigned female at birth. My gender identify is non-binary. How amazing!
Does anyone know? #Billions pic.twitter.com/YgFWd9YOIG
CO: Was it an emotional moment for you?
And you know, I’ve received many messages from people all over the world of varying age who have said how much the character of Taylor being non-binary means to them, and how much the fact that there is an actor who is non-binary that’s playing that character means to them.
For all of the visibility that Taylor is giving to other people, and that I am giving to other people now, Taylor really gave that visibility to me first.
CO: How difficult is it going to be, do you think, to change people’s views?
AKD: Because I was assigned female at birth and I am light-skinned, white, I think people hear my message more than they hear it from someone who was assigned male at birth and is a person of colour.
Just did an interview where I spoke about the privileges associated with being light skinned (White) and Assigned Female At Birth. ?????
This interview has bee edited for clarity and length. For the whole conversation, listen to our complete interview with Asia Kate Dillon.