ASIA KATE DILLON IN NEW YORK, MAY 2017. TANK AND SLEEVES: SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO. JEANS: REPRESENT. EARRING, CHOKER, AND POCKET CHAIN: EDDIE BORGO. CHOKER: ZANA BAYNE. NECKLACES: LADY GREY AND DILLON’S OWN. STYLING: MICHELLE CAMERON. MAKEUP: SARA GLICK USING RMS BEAUTY.
Asia Kate Dillon is standing outside a photo studio in downtown Manhattan, dressed for a shoot in clothes that will eventually need to be returned. Except, that is, for the necklaces: a gold charm with stars and a V-shaped plaque stamped with the words they and them. These are Dillon’s pronouns. The 32-year-old actor has identified as gender-nonbinary, neither exclusively masculine nor feminine, since they auditioned in 2015 for the role of Taylor Mason, a genderqueer Wall Street intern, on the Showtime drama Billions. “I struggled coming to terms with the fact that I’d been assigned female at birth, but that I didn’t feel like a girl or a woman or a man or a boy,” says Dillon, who was raised among a family of creatives in Ithaca, New York.
They tear up remembering the moment they told their mother about the pronouns. “She just took my hand and said, ‘Of course, I love you. You are my child, and I will do whatever you need me to do, so that you can feel like yourself,’ ” Dillon recalls, while also acknowledging that not all parents are as supportive. “Labels can be really helpful when we have the autonomy to label ourselves,” Dillon says. “But when other people label us without our permission, that’s when it becomes dangerous.”
After graduating from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, their first big break came in the form of Brandy Epps, the white supremacist they played on the fourth season of Orange Is the New Black. While Orange confined Dillon’s examination of identity to a prison, Billions allows them to run wild in the cutthroat world of finance. “This is the type of show that should have a character like Taylor,” Dillon says. “Yes, they are nonbinary, but they’re better at their job than anyone at the firm.”
Back at the photo studio, Dillon has changed again into their own clothes: a thin, long nylon mac over a black hoodie, black pants, and Dr. Martens. BLACK LIVES MATTER is written across the hoodie. Dillon has used their leverage in the industry to co-found the theater production company Mirror/Fire, whose mission is to develop projects for and about historically disenfranchised people. On Dillon’s neck, a tattoo reads EINFÜHLUNG. It’s a German term that means something close to empathy in English.
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