June 21, 2017


Future LGBTQ History Month: Asia Kate Dillon Is Pushing the Cultural Needle Forward

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Fuse is celebrating Pride Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future LGBTQ History before our eyes. Today we are honoring Asia Kate Dillon, who is carving a new space in Hollywood for non-binary actors.

Before their big break in television (Dillon uses the singular they pronoun for non-binary gender identification), the Ithaca, N.Y. native studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan where they graduated from the Studio Program. The actor had a few guest roles in shows like Younger and Master of None before starring as the kind of lovable but very problematic Brandy Epps in that other popular Netflix show—Orange Is the New Black.

Dillon continued to quickly rise in Hollywood as they scored a role in Season 2 of Showtime's popular drama, Billions. They play Taylor Amber Mason, a non-binary analyst at Axe Capital. The actor made history as being cast as the first gender non-binary character in a major television show. Back in April, it was announced that Dillon's role would officially shift from recurring to series regular for Season 3. “Creating more characters that represent historically marginalized and historically disenfranchised people in television and film is certainly important,” Dillon said of their role. “I think we’re at a really critical time in terms of art, and I think it’s totally possible to have a project that is entertaining but also moving the cultural needle forward. I think it’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful to work on Billions.”

When their name was being submitted at this year's Emmy Awards by Showtime, they reached out to the Academy to ask if "whether or not they use the word actor or actress to refer to assigned sex or identity, so that I could make the best decision for myself as to how I wanted to be submitted." Dillon wrote in their letter:

“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? The reason I’m hoping to engage you in a conversation about this is because 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. Furthermore, if the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are meant to denote assigned sex I ask, respectfully, why is that necessary?”

The Academy later responded in a positive manner, with a spokesperson explaining to Variety: “We are happy with our productive dialogue with Asia based on their very thoughtful letter. The Television Academy celebrates inclusiveness, and as we discussed with Asia, there is no gender requirement for the various performer categories. Asia is free to choose the category they wish to enter.”

The journey continued for non-gendered categories when Dillon presented the best actor award at the MTV Movie & TV Awards back in May, an award that would either go to a male or female for the first time ever. Emma Watson won the gender-neutral honor for her role in the live-action Beauty & the Beast. “I hope Hollywood at large will consider the responsibility it has, especially given the political climate in which we’re living,” Dillon recently told Vanity Fair. “I believe the arts are the best way to help people go on a journey of self-discovery toward their own compassion and empathy for humanity and themselves.”

As long as the actor continues to keep the conversation going about gender fluidity and equal representation in Hollywood for everyone, they will surely secure their place in the future of LGBTQ history.

Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future LGBTQ History. Join the conversation with #FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder. Next, throw it back to 2014 where Jason Biggs, Laura Prepon, Natasha Lyonne and other OITNB cast members weigh in on who'd be the bigger prison boss: Rihanna or Nicki Minaj?