Actor Asia Kate Dillon on being non-binary

We chatted with the actor who stars in the TV series Billions chatted with Asia Kate Dillon about their journey to becoming a mainstream actor.
Asia Kate Dillon

Can you explain non-binary gender for those who aren't yet fully up to speed?

Non-binary is a term used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms. People are born babies and a doctor decides the sex based on a quick look at the baby's external anatomy. A transgender person's gender is much more complicated than a simple glance at external anatomy can capture and a person's biology does not “trump” their gender identity.

Could you give us a brief overview of your journey up until this point?

I was born and raised in Ithaca, New York, and studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (ADMA) in New York City, graduating from the Studio Program. I then returned to Ithaca to complete the Meisner training program at The Actor's Workshop of Ithaca (I began during their junior year of high school at age sixteen, the youngest student ever admitted to the class). As an active alumni I not only acted with the theater company, but also served as a teaching assistant and stage manager.

In 2011 I took on the titular role of Rachel Corrie in My Name is Rachel Corrie. This role required me to memorize over thirty monologues and play over seven alternate characters over the course of the one person show.

I returned to New York City and was chosen from nearly one thousand actors to participate in a Workshop at The Flea Theater in Manhattan of fifty new plays by Tony and Academy award nominated and winning playwrights and directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. This was followed by a featured role as Lucifer in The Mysteries, also directed by Iskandar. Following, The Mysteries, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to perform in The Tempest at The Shakespeare Theatre Company.

I played the role of Albert Cashier in Good Men Wanted at Dixon Place, which would later host US – an evening of storytelling followed by a talkback, of which I am the creator, curator and director. US puts a magnifying glass to racism in the United States using original and found text, audio and video footage to drive the #BlackLivesMatter conversation forward. In early 2016, I co-founded MIRROR/FIRE productions and currently serve as a Producing Director of the company. In addition to Billions, I can be seen playing Brandy Epps in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.

What is the biggest challenge identifying as non-binary?

As someone who was assigned female at birth I've had a pretty easy time. I've certainly had my struggles, but, for the most part I have been surrounded by love and support and acceptance and understanding and communication. I think it's important to mention that there are no safe spaces for non-binary people, especially those of color, who were assigned male at birth. And as the murder of trans women, and especially trans women of color, is on the rise, non-binary, gender nonconforming and trans visibility, education and support are increasingly more important.

What progress needs to be made internationally in terms of passport genders?

I am in the process of learning as much as I can about this specific issue.

Tell us about your ideal vacation.

Somewhere warm where the water is clear.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Showtime

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