& Juliet’s Justin David Sullivan Turned Down Tony Award Eligibility

Nonbinary performer criticizes gendered performance categories

Earlier this month, The Broadway League and The American Theatre Wing who present The Tony Awards every year discussed what cast members and shows should be nominated in each category. Broadway performer Justin David Sullivan who plays one of the principal characters in the new musical & Juliet on Broadway, withdrew themselves from Tony eligibility instead of competing in the gendered awards category.  Sullivan, who identifies as nonbinary, chose to step away from awards altogether after being asked if they would like to be considered for the actor or actress category for a potential nomination at the Tony Awards in June. Sullivan spoke to Playbill about their decision and was not afraid to speak out on what they believe in and are advocating for. “I was told that I had to choose [the category in which] I felt comfortable, and in that process, I struggled a lot,” the performer told the news outlet in a statement.

“There’s nothing more that I want to empower than nonbinary people, to show that it’s possible to be nonbinary on Broadway, play a non-binary character on Broadway and be nominated, and possibly potentially awarded,” Sullivan said. “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,” Sullivan concluded. “So I will not be considered for a Tony nomination.” Many Broadway performers and other creatives have supported them throughout this process and also believe that something needs to change when it comes to gendered awards shows, not just with The Tonys but with every competition. In addition, there have been nonbinary performers in the past who have denied eligibility as well. The Tony Awards also released a statement about how they are currently in the process of making changes to promote inclusivity and talent. “Unfortunately, we are still in process on this and our rules do not allow us to make changes once a season has begun,” the awards wrote in a statement, per The New York Times. “We are working thoughtfully to ensure that no member of our community feels excluded on the basis of gender identity in future seasons.” Hopefully, The Broadway League and The American Theatre Wing will follow through on their statement and make permanent changes that address the concerns of others. “Things are shifting,” Sullivan stated. “There are so many gender-queer and gender-expansive artists in our community, and they bring so much to the table. So it hurts, and it was a really hard decision to make.” “I hope that this inspires a conversation to be had and an important one that needs to happen, to make sure that moving forward, there is more inclusivity in the nomination categories,” the performer added. The Tony Awards will air live on June 11 on CBS.