Nonbinary Broadway Star Justin David Sullivan of "& Juliet" Sits Out Gendered Tony Awards

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday February 2, 2023

Justin David Sullivan of "& Juliet"
Justin David Sullivan of "& Juliet"  (Source:Michael Murphy)

A principal performer in the new Broadway musical "& Juliet" is choosing to sit this year's Tony Awards out over the awards' limited categories.

As reported by the New York Times, trans performer Justin David Sullivan, who uses pronouns he, she and they, is choosing to withdraw from Tony Award consideration so they don't have to compete in a gendered category. Currently, performers must chose either men or women categories for consideration.

As a standout star in "& Juliet," Sullivan's life imitates the art. The pop-laden musical imagines an alternative to "Romeo and Juliet" in which Juliet does not die and the audience follows her as she still attempts to figure herself out. Sullivan plays May, one of Juliet's best friends.

By withdrawing from consideration, Sullivan hopes to draw attention enough attention to make the categories more inclusive.

"I felt I had no choice but to abstain from being considered for a nomination this season," Sullivan said in a statement on Wednesday. "I hope that award shows across the industry will expand their reach to be able to honor and award people of all gender identities."

The Grammy Awards have since eliminated many gendered categories; the Obie Awards, which honor Off and Off Off Broadway work, have also embraced nongendered categories. The Emmys, Oscars and Tonys still hold gender-based categories.

"Per Justin David Sullivan's request to the Tony Administration Committee, they opted to withdraw themselves from eligibility," Tony Award Productions said in a statement accepting Sullivan's actions. But Sullivan isn't the first nonbinary performer to make such a move.

"Asia Kate Dillon, who played Malcolm in a production of 'Macbeth' last season, asked not to be considered in either the actor or actress categories," NYT reports.

This season, Tony-eligible nonbinary performer J. Harrison Ghee, who stars in the new musical "Some Like It Hot," is up for leading actor.

About the categories, Ghee told The Daily Beast in a recent interview:

"I'm not going to put myself on this pedestal like, 'I need it to change today.'" They added, "I never go into things expecting to be the person that changes everything. I'm just showing up and meeting the moment."

Sullivan is one of the performers scheduled for "54 Sings The Glee Version (Regionals Edition)" set for January 29, 2023 at 9:30pm at 54 Below. Also appearing in the show are Alyssa Wray, Luke Ferrari, Katie Lemmen, Molly Russo and more. For more on the concert, click here.

Watch Justin sing 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' from "Grease", as performed by Darren Criss in the 4th season of "Glee," ahead of the concert.