Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Film Independent
In what is an emerging trend, the Independent Spirit Awards announced that their acting categories would no longer be defined by gender. Rather than “best actor” or “best supporting actress”, for example, awards will be given to “best lead performance” and “best performance in a supporting role”.
The 38-year-old Spirit Awards recognize filmmakers working outside the studio system. He is not the first to make this gesture; the Grammy Awards became gender-neutral in 2012, the MTV Awards removed in-game gender distinctions in 2017, and the Gotham Awards made a similar announcement last year.
“We are thrilled to join the other festivals and awards shows that are already traveling to celebrate great acting without reference to genre,” Film Independent chairman Josh Welsh said in a statement. “We are also happy to welcome non-binary artists into the Spirit Awards without forcing them to choose to identify as male or female.”
It was the position Asia Kate-Dillion found herself in when the non-binary actor was asked by Showtime in 2017 if he wanted to be submitted for Best Actor or Best Actress.
“It’s a wipeout,” Dillion told NPR in 2021. “It’s exclusive, and it continues to maintain a binary that is, ultimately, really dangerous.”
Bill Freimuth, then the Recording Academy’s awards director, recalled when the Grammy Awards went completely neutral.
“The question arose. Why do we have these categories? What’s the difference between a male country singer and a female country singer?” he said. “And, no, that’s not the start of a joke. I don’t have a punchline. It’s just a matter of fact. They’re both singing, so why do we have to separate that? And the answer was, we don’t know why.”
The Spirit Awards are seen as a step towards bigger film and television awards, such as the Oscars and Emmys, neither of which have given any indication of moving into gender-neutral categories in acting. .