Non-binary Broadway star opts out of Tony Awards considerations over gendered categories

Justin David Sullivan

A non-binary Broadway star has withdrawn themselves from Tony Awards consideration rather than competing in gendered categories. 

Justin David Sullivan, who portrays the non-binary character of May in & Juliet, told Playbill on Wednesday (1 February) that they chose to bow out of considerations altogether when forced between the gendered categories. 

“I was told that I had to choose [the category in which] I felt comfortable, and in that process, I struggled a lot,” Sullivan said. 

“There’s nothing more that I want to empower than non-binary people, to show that it’s possible to be non-binary on Broadway, play a non-binary character on Broadway and be nominated, and possibly potentially awarded. 

“I felt like I couldn’t choose. I didn’t feel right being in either category because it didn’t resonate with me. 

“I decided the only thing that felt right to me would be to abstain from nomination consideration. So I will not be considered for a Tony nomination.”

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Several awards have changed their categories to gender neutral

This is not the first time gendered categories in award shows have come under question by performers. 

In November, The Crown star Emma Corrin – who came out as non-binary in July – called for gender neutral categories, something Oscars and BAFTAs are reportedly considering. 

The actor told BBC News: “I hope for a future in which that happens, I don’t think the categories are inclusive enough at the moment. 

“It’s about everyone being able to feel acknowledged and represented.”

The previous year, in November 2021, the BRIT awards announced it would scrap “best male” and “best female” categories in favour of gender-neutral awards

At the time, organisers said scrapping gendered awards meant “celebrating artists solely for their music and work, rather than how they choose to identify or as others may see them, as part of the BRITs’ commitment to evolving the show to be as inclusive and as relevant as possible”. 

The Tonys, co-presented by The Broadway League and The American Theatre Wing, released a statement following Sullivan’s withdrawal: “We recognise that the current acting categories are not fully inclusive, and we are currently in discussion about how to best adjust them to address this. 

“Unfortunately, we are still in process on this and our rules do not allow us to make changes once a season has begun. 

“We are working thoughtfully to ensure that no member of our community feel excluded [on the basis of gender identity] in future seasons.”

The 76th Tony Awards will air on 11 June.

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