Editor’s Note: A regular on the barrier-breaking Vida over the three-season run of the Starz series, Ser Anzoategui has long identified as non-binary. With the Golden Globes tonight, Anzoategui, whose credits also include East Los High and Better Things, has penned a guest column for Deadline about what they see as a need for a significant shift in the way performers are categorized in awards season.
It’s time for the non-binary award category.
Being eligible for award season has been a highlight of my career. However, when I was respectfully asked which category, I’d prefer to submit myself in for the Golden Globe awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, it became a challenging experience.
Now you might ask what makes submitting for such a prestigious acting award so stressful?
Well, it’s because performance award categories are marked by gender and there is no category that truly reflects my gender. Weighing out which category I fit in, at best, becomes an experience filled with what’s called gender dysphoria. As my brain hovers over the options, I watch myself from outside my own body in a weird, uncomfortable to say the least, scene-like moment filled with angst.
Although the experience varies, I now realize this painful experience is unacceptable, I think we can do more to include us gender-fluid folx, and I believe it is time for a non-binary performance category in the Golden Globes and SAG Awards – (why not all awards?!).
I thought at first, it didn’t matter which category I was submitted in because what takes precedence is the performance. Then I remembered Jared Leto and Jeffrey Tambor.
Their award wins for playing trans women were due to their gender presentation. Voters and audiences alike have stated they see how much these actors had to transform in order to play transgender roles.
When Dustin Hoffman won the Oscar in 1968 for The Graduate, he wasn’t America’s traditional leading man. He helped to usher in a new Hollywood tradition of average-looking but emotionally explosive leading men (self-described in his Britannica bio). In short, the actors who fill the leading roles of our time represent a space for cultural reflection. When voters look at the lead actor category, they are perhaps looking to make a larger statement about the image of what a leading man represents in our society today.
So, I ask you, how would a non-binary actor have equal chance in the lead actor or actress category? How can they compete with what’s perceived as the norm?
Furthermore, what responsibility lies with the voters? How can we expect voters to take the time to educate themselves on the nuances and complexities of the gender of non-binary/trans people if the governing bodies of these award shows don’t make it a priority? How are the voters supposed to see the difference between, for example, a butch lesbian vs a non-binary performance or perhaps a trans person who also identifies as non-binary?
At present, it creates a false equivalence to choose a category.
It also suggests implicit bias. Without a lesson in non-binary identity, the viewer often insists as seeing a non-binary actor/actress as the gender their own bias allows rather than the true gender of the nonbinary/trans person. Non-binary people are also indisputably present. They live and work in our industry and our community. They are award-winning, lauded artists, and paying them lip service is not enough.
We have created change for ourselves in this society. If non-binary people can legally change their names and identity such as to be recognized by the state (yes, you can change your birth certificate to reflect your true gender in most states; in California even, you can change your gender marker on state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses to non-binary), why not make these same strides within award categories? There is constant change that happens within award-show guidelines, so why not include us? Non-binary people are part of the fabric of our industry.
I didn’t choose to be nonbinary, transmasculine and at times feminine expressed — this is who I have always been.
This defines who I am.
We are not the elephant in the room.
We are a vibrant, strong, beautiful people living freely from the shackles of gender norms imposed upon us.
My presence along with myriad gender identities isn’t a burden, it’s a privilege. We are a world beyond the binary. This advocacy for the non-binary category is bigger than our industry; it contributes to normalizing our bodies. It gives us value and worth on the streets we walk daily where sometimes safe spaces do not exist for us and we are instead met with violence, for trans or non-binary, and at epidemic rates disproportionately for Black trans women and Translatinas.
I ask for this consideration so people like Elliot Page can have safe spaces to transition. I imagine safe parks where people like Laverne Cox can enjoy a walk with a friend without the fear of violence looming. I imagine safe housing where people like myself can live free of harassment and assault from neighbors. I could go on, naming actor after non-binary actor you might remotely recognize. And yet, imagine what those without fame or credits to rattle off as validation go through on a daily basis. The SAG Awards and the Golden Globes need to create a new category to represent the portion of our community that is not being proportioned. That small Hollywood gesture will make a grand statement about our society. Oftentimes we forget our industry helps shape cultural norms.
Let us show you the beauty of what our gender encompasses. Stop limiting us from the endless ways in which we embody our gender. Embrace us. All of us.
Anzoategui ultimately chose to be submitted in the Actress in a Television Supporting Role category for the Golden Globes and the Male Actor in a Drama Series category for the SAG Awards.
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