The Last Of Us' Bella Ramsey And 7 Other Actors Who Have Spoken Out About Gender-Neutral Awards

Award shows like the Emmys, Oscars and Tonys are incredible platforms to recognize actors for their work. But, with a growing number of critically-acclaimed actors who identify as nonbinary in contention for acting awards, such as The Last of Us’ Bella Ramsey and The Crown’s Emma Corrin, Hollywood has been having an ongoing discussion about whether gender-neutral award categories are the future.

More and more award shows have been switching to gender neutral acting categories as of late, including the MTV Movie and TV Awards, Gotham Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards. Those shows have opted for “Best Lead Performance” or “Best Actor in a Movie” depending on the award show, as to include everyone rather than splitting them by gender. Let’s take a look at the actors who have spoken out about gender-neutral awards in recent years. 

Ellie outside in The Last of Us finale

(Image credit: HBO)

Bella Ramsey 

One of the big contenders at the upcoming Emmys is Bella Ramsey for their incredible performance in HBO’s The Last of Us. The young nonbinary star received their first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. The decision to submit as an actress admittedly made Ramsey feel “uncomfortable” as she told Vanity Fair. When asked about their thoughts on gender-neutral awards, Ramsey said this: 

I don’t want the limitations in terms of the language in the categories to be a reason that nonbinary actors like me can’t be celebrated. And it can open up a conversation about how it feels—as long as I’m aware of the fact that it’s not ideal, but also that finding alternatives is really complex.

Ramsey has previously shared that their gender has “always been very fluid” with people referring to them as “she” and “he” throughout their life and coming to the conclusion that “they” pronouns feel like the “most truthful” way for them to express their identity. Ramsey doesn’t know what the right answer is for award shows, but their voice provides us with some context around this subject.

emma corrin as princess diana on the crown

(Image credit: Netflix)

Emma Corrin

Another actor who has been vocal about their hopes for gender neutral awards is Emma Corrin, who was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2021 for portraying Princess Diana in The Crown. The nonbinary star, who also uses they/them pronouns, said this to BBC News in November 2022 regarding making acting awards more inclusive: 

I don't think the categories are inclusive enough at the moment... It's difficult for me at the moment trying to justify in my head being non-binary and being nominated in female categories. When it comes to categories, do we need to make it specific as to whether you're being nominated for a female role or a male role? You can discuss awards and the representation there, but really the conversation needs to be about having more representation in the material itself, in the content that we are seeing for non-binary people, for queer people, for trans people, because then I think that will change a lot. When those parts come up, meaning more people and more actors are playing those roles, then I think there will be more of an urgency with which these questions will be addressed.

Corrin believes this industry change is bigger than making them feel more comfortable when they are nominated for awards. The Crown actor feels that more inclusion in Hollywood itself is where it all starts. 

Jameela Jamil as Titania in She-Hulk

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Jameela Jamil 

Following the recent push from actors like Ramsey and Corrin to be better represented at award shows, The Good Place’s Jameela Jamil shared her thoughts on Instagram earlier this summer about the topic, too. In her words: 

Would it not be better to give non-binary people their own category rather than open the door for Hollywood to completely shut out women given, the known disproportionate amount of men vs women winning at award shows? If we now have enough non-binary talent to restructure entire award shows, which is GREAT, then we should add rather than run the accidental risk of erasing, no? I say this as an audience member because I am not going to be nominated for an Oscar anyway. I have no horse in this race.

Jamil brought up the valid concern of if more award shows stop gendering the acting awards, it may become unequal for women, or perhaps even minorities in general, who are already shut out of awards races as is. Ramsey actually responded to Jamil’s idea, saying they feel “weird about their being a whole new category.” Apparently, the online conversation allowed Jamil and Ramsey to have some friendly discussions in the DMs on the subject. 

Asia Kate Dillon in John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Asia Kate Dillon 

Hopes for gender-neutral award categories goes back further than the past year. Orange is the New Black’s Asia Kate Dillon actually wrote a letter to the Television Academy back in 2017 calling for the elimination of gendered categories. As Dillon wrote (via Them): 

If the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are in fact supposed to represent ‘best performance by a person who identifies as a woman’ and ‘best performance by a person who identifies as a man’ then there is no room for my identity within that award system binary, Furthermore, if the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are meant to denote assigned sex I ask, respectfully, why is that necessary?

When award season comes around, there’s always talk of there being too many categories, so it could assist with that issues, but the change would actually make things worse if predominantly male actors are nominated in a combined category. Though, just as Dillon shares, why is it necessary to split the performance awards by gender in the first place? 

Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon Season 1 finale

(Image credit: HBO)

Emma D’Arcy

Another actor who identifies as nonbinary and is getting major award buzz as of late is Emma D’Arcy, for their performance in House of the Dragon. Similar to their colleagues, D’Arcy was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama at the 2023 Golden Globes. D’Arcy shared a lot of grace and excitement about being nominated at all with these words: 

When I was starting out, I really felt that I had to present as a woman in order to find success in this industry. It wasn't sustainable, and I stopped pretending. And weirdly at that point I got nominated for Best Actress for the Golden Globes, which is like beautifully ironic. [The honor] implies the space for trans people and gender non-conforming people is getting bigger all the time. So, I feel very privileged.

When you think about it, Hollywood has never had this conversation on a wider scale, simply because this many nonbinary actors have never been nominated basically at once and given a platform to share their thoughts on award categories. The fact that the industry is having this conversation a lot more lately shows growth in of itself, even if an answer has yet to be found. 

Liv Hewson as Van in Yellowjackets

(Image credit: Showtime)

Liv Hewson 

Though, not every non-binary actor is content with just being nominated at all. Yellowjackets star Liv Hewson decided not to submit themselves to the Emmys because of feeling alienated by the gendered categories. In their words: 

There’s not a place for me in the acting categories. 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… There is an implied fatalism there, which suggests that we’ve all agreed that equality is impossible. And that’s sad. We’re not going to start awarding best female and male director, or female or male cinematographer. Because we all understand that implicitly would be insulting.

Hewson made a point that when it comes to technical categories like Best Director, Best Cinematography, and so forth, those awards are not gendered. So, why are they for actors? 

Jamie Lee Curtis winning an Oscar at the 95th Academy Awards

(Image credit: ABC)

Jamie Lee Curtis 

Academy award winner Jamie Lee Curtis has not only been in Hollywood for all her life, she has a trans daughter, who she is always showing support for. When Curtis was asked about her thoughts on gender-neutral acting categories in early 2023 by the NY Times, while on the award trail, the Halloween actress made her own points: 

I’m all for inclusion, which is the most important thing, but, at the same time, I want to make sure that the most opportunities are available to people. I know a lot of people believe in same-sex education. There are a lot of young women who get very quiet when the boys get really loud.

It’s no wonder this is such a debate! Is the answer splitting the categories by the gender of the character? Splitting up the categories more by genre to give more actors a shot? The answer is not yet clear. 

Hugh Jackman appeared on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

(Image credit: CBS)

Hugh Jackman 

As each of these actors’ perspectives offer food for thought about the future of gender-neutral award categories, we’ll end things off with some words from Hugh Jackman, who showed his allyship for making the change last year (via Metro). Here are his thoughts: 

That would be a really positive step. I don’t understand why it’s split into just two genders when we all know it’s a much bigger spectrum. Whatever the mix is, we should maybe just break down any of those categories that end up being divisive and unnecessary.

Perhaps, as the question gets to more and more major stars like Jackman, the conversation will lead to more balance in inclusion during awards season? We imagine this subject will continue to be a hot topic in Hollywood for years to come, especially as talented nonbinary stars like Bella Ramsey, Emma D’Arcy and so forth continue to offer up award-worthy performances. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.