Why Music P.E.I. is moving away from gendered award categories

For the first time ever, the Music P.E.I. Awards won't be using gendered award categories.

'It has a lot to do with equality and respect of non-gender identifying artists'

'It’s the way things should be. What your gender is doesn’t affect what music you make or the merit of the work you make,' says Russell Louder. (Paul Atwood)

For the first time ever, the Music P.E.I. Awards won't be using gendered award categories.

"It has a lot to do with equality and respect of non-gender identifying artists," said Rob Oakie, executive director of Music P.E.I.  

The awards ceremony has taken its Female and Male Artist of the Year categories out of the lineup and will instead hand out a Solo Artist of the Year Award and a New Artist of the Year Award.

'It didn't take long'

The decision to move from gendered categories is in tune with general standard industry practices, said Oakie.

"When it was suggested to us it just made sense. It didn't take us long to realize there were a number of organizations that had already made the move," he said.  

Following the 2018 Music P.E.I. Awards a couple of artists approached Oakie, calling for the change to be made.

After some research, Music P.E.I. made the move over the summer.

"It's the respectful position to take. Not doing it is disrespectful," said Oakie.

'The way things should be'

Russell Louder, who is nominated for 2019 New Artist of the Year and Electronic Single Recording of the Year, supports the decision. "It's time for the change to happen."

Louder is a P.E.I.-based musician and non-binary transgender Islander, and uses the pronoun "they" rather than he or she.

Louder is also a member of the P.E.I. Transgender Network.

I think it's really timely that I have a nomination because the awards aren't gendered. And that feels really great- Russell Louder

"It's the way things should be. What your gender is doesn't affect what music you make or the merit of the work you make," they said.  

Louder thinks the decision not to separate awards by gender increases accessibility for other people with similar identities.

A platform

"It opens up the platform for other trans or non-binary folks to feel less hesitant to put their names in for nominations because they don't have to choose one or the other that they don't identify with," they said.

Louder released their first EP last March and has been touring since last April.  

"My music career is pretty new. So being in an awards category wasn't even on my radar. But I think it's really timely that I have a nomination because the awards aren't gendered. And that feels really great."

Although their music isn't queer-focused, they think their "identity opens up the space for other trans and non-binary folks to relate" to the music.

The move from gendered award categories is great, but Louder says it's just a start. 

Changes on the Island, like government funded resources such as gender therapists for the queer community are necessary, they said. 

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About the Author

Sam Juric

Web Writer

Sam Juric is a journalist with CBC P.E.I.