Justin David Sullivan, who stars in the coming-of-age musical “& Juliet” on Broadway, is making headlines this week for turning down their shot at a coveted Tony Award. But according to Playbill, it’s not because Sullivan felt insecure about their performance or believed that other actors deserved the nomination more. Instead, it’s because they felt pigeonholed in choosing between the “male” or “female” award categories.
Sullivan, who is trans non-binary and identifies as he, she and them, also plays a non-binary character in the musical. So when they had to choose an award category they felt most comfortable in before nominations went out, they said they “struggled a lot” with the decision.
In the end, they did the only thing that truly felt right: They opted out.
“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,” Sullivan told Playbill. “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.”
The news has sparked a lot of conversation on social media, especially after Sullivan issued their own statement calling for future award shows to be more inclusive.
So far, the performer has received a lot of support from fans.
“So much work to be done,” one person tweeted. “I’m glad you are leading the way. Sending loads of love & light.”
Thank you for playing may, & doing this, & just so proudly being yourself,” another person tweeted. “from one non-binary performer to another — you’re truly an inspiration.”
“You’ll be remember[ed] for this, but more for your talent, kindness and trailblazing actions,” someone else said. “Love you to the moon and back.”
Sullivan is not the first performer to make this stand against award shows. Asia Kate Dillon, another Broadway performer who is nonbinary, turned down a Tony consideration for their role in “Macbeth” last year and an Emmy consideration in 2017 for their role in the TV show Billions.
Soon after Sullivan’s withdrawal story broke, the Tony Awards — co-presented by The Broadway League and The American Theatre Wing — released its own statement about the issue:
“We recognize 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 feels excluded in future seasons.”
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