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Gender Neutrality in Awards Season

Lauren Bell

Awards season has come and gone, and with it many moments of joy and tears. Watching Everything, Everywhere, All At Once sweep all the shows was so spectacular, and Guillermo del Toro's shoutout to the animation industry made my cartoon-loving heart so incredibly happy. But each time nominees are announced, I can’t help but wonder where people like myself would fit in at these awards shows. I obviously don’t speak for every non-binary and gender-nonconforming (GNC) person in the world, but I do know that personally, if I were to ever be nominated for an award I would want to be honored in a way that was true to my identity. And that’s what all nonbinary and GNC people deserve. So when categories are divided into Best Actor and Best Actress (which is already weird to me, seeing as “actor” is already gender neutral), where do we fit in? 

As a nonbinary theatre artist, questions like that have lurked in the back of my mind for quite some time. I never realized until this past awards season just how relevant this issue is. What first jumped out at me was how Emma Corrin (they/them) was eligible for a best supporting actress Oscar for their performance in My Policeman. Though they didn’t end up getting the nomination, the fact that they would’ve had to either settle for an award nomination misgendering them or pull their name from the pool is angering. One could argue that a nonbinary actor’s gender nomination could be dependent on the gender of their role, but what does that leave for nonbinary actors playing nonbinary roles? Justin David Sullivan (he/she/they) made headlines earlier this year when they chose to abstain from Tony award nominations entirely. Sullivan plays a nonbinary character in the Broadway musical & Juliet and did not feel as though any of the gendered categories fit who she or the character she plays is (read more about it on Playbill). 

The theatre community and the queer and trans community have deep connections that go back decades, and as such it is no surprise that Broadway is attempting to pave the way for a more inclusive awards show. There are already gender-neutral categories in smaller awards shows that honor Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, and the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing have promised that they are working to follow suit for the Tony Awards. There has been no word from other awards shows about the possibility of gender-neutral categories.

Critics argue that making judging categories gender-neutral could lead to the ceremonies becoming male-dominated. But if other awards ceremonies can do it, then so can the Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys. The solution to this issue simply can’t be “if you don’t like it, don’t participate in it.” Nonbinary and GNC people deserve a chance to be honored for their work in the arts, and to be honored in a way that respects who they are.

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