Nonbinary actors changing the face of the genre
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12 nonbinary actors changing the face of genre

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Jan 23, 2020, 4:20 PM EST (Updated)

Five years ago, I didn’t know I was nonbinary. I knew there was something about the way I felt in my body, something about the way my skin crawled around gender essentialism, that meant I was different, but I just thought it meant I was queer. When I learned that Asia Kate Dillon was nonbinary and used multiple pronouns (at the time), I started to wonder what that could possibly mean for me.

Now I’m out of another closet and (mostly) happily living my effortlessly nonbinary life. As I’ve come to understand myself, though, I’ve found comfort, recognition, and courage in representations of nonbinary people on TV and film. Being able to see people onscreen who experience their gender outside of the binary has helped me understand what being nonbinary can mean. And the more visible nonbinary people become, the easier that makes the lives of folks like me.

Nonbinary isn’t just one identity. It’s a term that some people use to describe their gender identity, and it’s a term that describes all identities outside of the woman/man gender binary. Some nonbinary gender identities include: genderfluid, genderqueer, agender, transmasculine, transfeminine, androgyne, demigender, and so many more. Some people choose one label, some claim multiple, and some feel no label is quite right. Some nonbinary people use gender-neutral pronouns, some use multiple pronouns, some use no pronoun, and some use he/him or she/her. There is no one way to be nonbinary, and this list of 12 nonbinary actors changing the face of genre proves that.

Please note: The names, pronouns, and identities listed below are accurate at the time of writing this article. People change, gender is fluid, and eventually, some of these may no longer be accurate.

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Ruby Rose

Ruby Rose (Batwoman)

Ruby Rose (she/her), who has appeared in the Resident Evil and John Wick franchises, has brought her genderfluid power to The CW’s Batwoman. Playing TV’s first out lesbian superhero could be a lot of pressure, but Rose’s Batwoman fits in with the Arrowverse very well, as demonstrated in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. Rose has also been outspoken about her identity as a genderfluid lesbian, helping create more space for nonbinary queer folks with multiple identities.

Indya Moore

Indya Moore (Steven Universe)

Though best known for playing Angel Evangelista on Pose and Goddess in the film Queen and Slim, Indya Moore (they/them) joined the world of genre in 2019 when they voiced nonbinary character Shep on Steven Universe Future. While the series has long had an alien-hybrid character who is nonbinary (Stevonnie), having a character who is human, brown-skinned, and nonbinary voiced by a nonbinary person of Haitian, Puerto Rican, and Dominican descent is a different kind of representation. Shep isn’t created by fusion — Shep is just Shep. Moore often speaks about nonbinary representation and how society may not be ready, but we’re already here.

Nico Tortorella

Nico Tortorella (The Walking Dead: The World Beyond)

Nico Tortorella (they/them) has had a wild and prolific career as an actor, writer, and model. They appeared in Scream 4, have an MTV show about tattoos with Snooki (How Far is Tattoo Far?), and have written a beautiful memoir The Space Between about their experiences with gender, sexuality, addiction, and recovery. And later this year, Tortorella will appear as Felix in The Walking Dead: The World Beyond. In preparation for the role, they had to do a lot of physical training and shared their journey on Instagram, constantly reminding followers that nonbinary can look a lot of ways, including hella SWOL.

Asia Kate Dillon

Asia Kate Dillon (John Wick 3: Parabellum)

From Orange is the New Black to Billions, Asia Kate Dillon (they/them) has made an impression on the field of entertainment. Their Billions character, Taylor Mason, was the first openly nonbinary character shown on mainstream TV in the US. Beyond their overall powerful acting performances, Dillon has been open about their gender identity and how their relationship to pronouns has changed as they’ve come to understand themself better, using their platform to help wider audiences understand nonbinary folks. In 2019, they kicked ass as the Adjudicator in John Wick 3: Parabellum and used the role as a chance to advocate for more nonbinary representation, pushing filmmakers to make the character also nonbinary.

JayR Tinaco

JayR Tinaco (Another Life)

While filming Another Life, Filipino-Australian actor JayR Tinaco (he/they) realized they were nonbinary. In the Netflix series, Tinaco plays a nonbinary psychologist named Zayn (ze/hir) and playing the role helped him understand his gender identity better. "I have always felt that my soul has never been completely 100 percent 'male or female' and I never really understood why," they told SBS. Notably, Zayn’s gender identity is not a part of any storyline, making transgender and nonbinary identities a presumed norm in the world of the series.

Lachlan Watson

Lachlan Watson (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)

Lachlan Watson (they/them) has felt like they’ve been able to tell some of their own story through their The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina character Theo Pullman (he/him) who has transitioned as part of the show’s storylines. Lachlan’s influence on the series is evident particularly in Season 1 when Theo takes some time exploring his gender identity instead of immediately transitioning to a new name and pronoun. Watson has been outspoken about their top surgery, the power of their scars, and how their gender identity has morphed over three phases of their life.

Jacob Tobia

Jacob Tobia (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power)

As an activist, writer, and actor, Jacob Tobia (they/them) has long been fighting for transgender and nonbinary rights, including penning a groundbreaking memoir Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story. Their incredible memoir about gender, race, sexuality, and sometimes Gandalf is in development to become a Showtime TV series. In 2019, Tobia became the first nonbinary person to voice an animated character who is nonbinary. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power's Double Trouble, as the tricksy little shapeshifter is known, has been well-loved by audiences, even earning a spot on SYFY FANGRRLS’ 19 queerest moments of 2019.

Tobia is also a fashiontx of the highest order, serving nonbinary power looks that will make you weak in the knees.

Liv Hewson

Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet)

Australian actor and playwright Liv Hewson (they/them) has played an adorable queer teenager in Let It Snow and a mouthy assistant in Bombshell. They land firmly on this genre list, though, for their iconic performance in Santa Clarita Diet in which they play Abby Hammond, the daughter of a zombie and a loving parent on the verge of a nervous breakdown (who becomes a zombie in the final moments of the series). Hewson has often reminded interviewers that nonbinary can mean many things. “There just isn’t one way to be non-binary. There isn’t one way to play around with gender and there’s no wrong way to look and be nonbinary,” they told Gay Star News.

Ezra Miller

Ezra Miller (Justice League, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)

Ezra Miller (who is comfortable with all pronouns) has played many different roles, but is probably best known for being the DCEU’s Flash, a role Miller recently reprised during the Arrowverse crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths. Miller’s cameo was just — holy wow — so adorable, playing a flustered Barry Allen face-to-face with the other Barry Allen played by Grant Gustin. (Some fans are shipping the two as Flash4Flash and I just want that to be canonical so bad.) Miller has also appeared in the Fantastic Beasts films as Credence Barebone, destroying red carpets with deathly hallows looks that would make any fan freak out. Fashionistx + Nerd + Fearless Nonbinary Power = YES PLEASE

Ian Alexander

Ian Alexander (The OA)

Ian Alexander (he/him) became the first transgender Asian-American person to act on TV with his role of Buck on The OA. While Alexander is not consumed with finding a perfect label, he identifies as transmasculine. Alexander credits his performance on The OA with helping his parents understand his identity better. "I think being on The OA actually really helped them realize that I can be happy and I can be successful as a trans person and as a queer person," he told Ellen DeGeneres on her daytime talk show. "Being on set for The OA was the first time I heard my mom use my correct name and pronouns, so that made my heart soar and made me realize they can accept this and other people can accept this and I can be just fully accepted for who I am in this environment."

Bex Taylor Klaus

Bex Taylor-Klaus (Arrow, Scream)

Bex Taylor-Klaus (she/they) became a queer fan favorite for their work on Arrow as Sin and on the Scream TV series as Audrey Jensen, but they really blew our minds with their epic gender-expansive photoshoot that they shared with Autostraddle. Taylor-Klaus is open about their experiences around gender in the field of acting, their concerns about being nonbinary and presenting differently at different times, and how they’ve decided to bill themself as the full package. “No matter how femininely I’m dressed I can still bring the masculine, and vice versa,” they told Autostraddle.

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae (Dirty Computer)

Multi-hyphenate powerhouse Janelle Monáe acts, sings, writes, and hoo buddy does she perform. (Since coming out as nonbinary via Twitter earlier this month, Monae hasn’t made a statement about her pronouns, so I will continue to use she/her.) While there are numerous reasons to place this groundbreaking star on any list, from Hidden Figures to Harriet, it is her 2018 project Dirty Computer that earns her a spot on this genre-specific list. Both the album and the short film of the same name evoke classic science fiction stories such as Blade Runner, The Giver, and The Handmaid’s Tale, and grapple with ideas of gender, sexuality, sex, race, and how identities are policed in a dystopian society.

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