Actor Elliot Page is the latest star to call on major Hollywood award shows like the Oscars to move away from gendered acting categories.
“Yeah, it seems like a good idea,” Page told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published Tuesday.
Page, whose film “Close to You” premiered this week at the Toronto International Film Festival, said acting has “this sort of unusual aspect of that being the only category, right, where that sort of happens? So, hopefully, we start moving beyond that degree of binary thinking.”
In recent years, there have been growing demands for film and TV award bodies to eliminate the separation between male and female acting categories like Best Actor and Best Actress, as they are not inclusive of nonbinary and gender-nonconforming performers.
“We’re thrilled to join the other festivals and award shows that are already moving to celebrate great acting without reference to gender,” Film Independent President Josh Welsh said last year when announcing the change. “We’re also happy to welcome non-binary performers into the Spirit Awards without forcing them to choose to identify as male or female.”
But so far, the most influential award bodies, such as the Academy Awards and the Emmys, have yet to shift away from male and female acting categories. Historically, such gendered categories have typically only existed for actors and performers, and not for behind-the-camera professionals in Hollywood.
A number of nonbinary actors have spoken about how the use of gendered awards excludes them and forces them to identify as either male or female when being recognized for their work. Several have said they’ve turned down the chance to be considered because of these gendered categories, including Liv Hewson of “Yellowjackets” and Asia Kate Dillon of “Billions.”
“There’s not a place for me in the acting categories,” Hewson told Variety earlier this year. “It would be inaccurate for me to submit myself as an actress. It neither makes sense for me to be lumped in with the boys. It’s quite straightforward and not that loaded. I can’t submit myself for this because there’s no space for me.”
In 2017, Dillon, who made history as the first out nonbinary star of a major TV series, began advocating for award bodies to reconsider gendered acting awards. In researching the origins of the word “actor,” Dillon found that originally “it applied to all people, regardless of anatomical sex or gender identity.”
They wrote a letter to Television Academy officials, calling into question the Emmys’ gendered acting awards. In response, the Television Academy clarified to Dillon that actors could choose whichever category they prefer.
At the time, it was a step forward in beginning the conversation. However, as Dillon and other performers have pointed out, this still forces nonbinary actors to choose a category with which they may not identify, rather than eliminating the gender binary altogether.
At this year’s Tony Awards in June, Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee became the first out nonbinary actors to win Broadway’s highest honors.
“We don’t gender other people’s professions,” Newell pointed out in an interview with NPR. “You say: I’m going to my doctor, I’m going to my dentist, and I need to hire a plumber.”
Newell had decided to be considered in the category of Best Featured Actor in a Musical. “The word itself is not gendered,” they said, explaining the choice to go with “actor” over “actress.”
“That is my profession. That is my vocation. I am an actor.”