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Emma Watson via Twitter

For the past 24 years, the MTV Movie Awards has been an evening dedicated to having fun with the film industry—rarely taking itself seriously as an award show. But last month, the television network announced it was making two major changes to the annual event. The 2017 show would now include awards for television and all of the awards will be gender-neutral. This decision made the 2017 MTV Music and TV Awards the first major award show to forego gender distinctions such as “best actor” or “best actress.


Last night, Emma Watson was awarded the first-ever gender-neutral MTV award for acting. She won for her performance as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, beating out Daniel Kaluuya, Hailee Steinfeld, Taraji P. Henson, Hugh Jackman, and James McAvoy. “MTV’s move to create a genderless award for acting will mean something different to everyone,” Watson said in her acceptance speech. “But to me, it indicates that acting is about the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. And that doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories. Empathy and the ability to use your imagination should have no limits.”

Asia Kate Dillon via Twitter

The award was presented to Watson by Billions star Asia Kate Dillon, an actor who identifies as gender nonbinary. Last month, Dillon challenged the Television Academy to reconsider its gender categorizations in an open letter that read:

“I’d like to know if in your eyes ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ denote anatomy or identity and why it is necessary to denote either in the first place? The reason I’m hoping to engage you in a conversation about this is because 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?”

This letter sparked a positive dialog between the Academy and Dillon. “I found them to be 100 percent supportive. I really couldn’t have been happier,” Dillon told Variety. “We are happy with our productive dialog with Asia based on their very thoughtful letter,” a TV Academy spokesperson told Variety. “The Television Academy celebrates inclusiveness, and as we discussed with Asia, there is no gender requirement for the various performer categories. Asia is free to choose the category they wish to enter.”

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