9th May 2017

The MTV Movie and TV Awards have been the next awarding body to move to gender neutral prizes at their award ceremony with Emma Watson recently winning the prize for ‘best big-screen actor’ for her role in the recent Disney adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. The category could have been won by anyone, of any gender identity.

The issue of categorising gender continues to resonate in various societal contexts (an obvious example being on one’s birth certificate/passport), and creates clear problems for those who identify as neither male or female (non-binary) or those whose gender varies over time (‘gender fluid’)*: for, which ‘category’ do you belong to? Well, the answer: neither.

We still continue to live in a society whereby being non-binary is not officially recognised in various social/legal contexts; (we still have the same problem within the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in that one has to identify as male or female when applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate) and we must start asking how this can continue. Now, living in an ever-increasing acceptance, and a knowledge, that gender is not as simple as ‘male’ and ‘female’, and that some people do not identify as either, is it not a matter of human integrity to provide for all gender identities in both one’s private life, and if categorising them in the public eye? Is any other approach knowingly injecting risk of humiliation and a violation of their Article 8 [ECHR] rights? To discuss this in a film/TV context, this article asks us, ‘is it time to scrap gender specific awards?’

The issue was illuminated by Billions star Asia Kate Dillon who identifies as non-binary. Dillon asked the Emmys which category they would be assigned considering they do not identify as either male or female. The Emmys allowed Dillon to choose which they would prefer, but it still did not erase the point that they had to assign themselves to the binary.

Are we not of an era now that opportunity should be provided to all, irrespective of one’s gender identity and if so, I reflect the comment in the linked article: ‘which performance is best overall?. Gender should not come in to a decision based on merit, but for as long as it does, every identity needs to be provided for, as a matter of international human rights law.

*non-exhaustive list of alternative gender identities.

Blog by Lui Asquith, specialist LGBQ and Trans and Non-Binary Family Solicitor