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Billions star Asia Kate Dillon is a non-binary trailblazer. Not that they see it that way.

Of all the mediums through which audiences could be educated about gender, a drama about New York hedge funds ought to be way down the list.

But embedded in the private-jet, ego-driven world of Billions are trojan-horsed explorations of female empowerment, lethally toxic masculinity and diverse gender expression.

Watch: Here’s what to expect in Season 5 of Billions.

In season two of the show, we meet intern Taylor Mason, played by Asia Kate Dillon. Mathematically brilliant, emotionally controlled, ruthlessly efficient, Taylor lands in the white-collar playpen that is Axe Capital, a top-tier fund being closely watched by federal authorities.

“Hello, I’m Taylor,” the character says, hand extended towards their new boss, Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis). “My pronouns are they, theirs and them.”

In that moment, a piece of LGBTQI+ and pop culture history was made.

Like their character, Dillon doesn’t identify as male or female. And their part in Billions, available in Australia on Stan, is the first starring role for a non-binary actor on U.S. television.

It’s why words like ‘trailblazer’ tend to follow mentions of Dillon’s name. But they simply see themselves standing on the shoulders of others.

“It is a fact that I am the first non-binary actor to play a non-binary character on TV — that’s just a fact,” they told Mamamia. “It’s also a fact that I’m joining a trail that was blazed long before I arrived on the scene, primarily by trans women of colour. I’m proud to be one part of the movement.”

Dillon’s visibility has meant they have been cast as somewhat of an ambassador for the non-binary community, explaining their identity — what it means, why they chose it.

Asia Kate Dillon stars opposite Damian Lewis in Billions. Image: Stan.
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It is a novel concept for a lot of people. But Dillon finds most are open to learning.

Talkshow host Ellen DeGeneres was among them. When Dillon appeared on her show in 2018, they explained that part of their journey was learning that sex and identity are different: "sex is [what's] between our legs and gender identity is between our ears". (In other words, one is biology, the other is cultural; what it means to be male or female, how each acts and looks, are simply ideas we've all agreed upon.)

When the discussion turned to Dillon's romantic life, the actor gently reframed DeGeneres' use of the word boyfriend — "I have a partner who is a self-identified man."

"Sorry," DeGeneres said, chuckling, "It's really confusing, and I think people assume just because I’m gay that I understand all of this."

Unsurprisingly, there are people who aren't prepared to be quite so open-minded. Dillion has been targeted by death threats in the past, and comments on press stories and social media are often littered with hateful attacks.

Dillon again points to others in their community.

"I have several marginalised identities, but I also carry white-bodied privilege, and the backlash I have received is slim," Dillon said. "There is an epidemic of violence against trans people of colour, and black trans women in particular, in [the United States]. For black trans women, the choice to be visible is life or death."

There seems little doubt that the situation will be better for the next generation of gender diverse people. The visibility of people like Dillon — and of their character — help ensure that.

For the people who will raise that next generation, Dillon offers this advice:

"A child who expresses a desire to be gender diverse or non-binary is a gift, a hand reaching out from the Universe leading you towards a deepening of your humanity. Breathe, then take that hand with gratitude."

Billions Season 5 is now streaming only on Stan – with new episodes Sundays, the same day as the US.

Featured image: Stan.


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