The star of hit Broadway musical & Juliet, Justin David Sullivan, has withdrawn from Tony Awards after having made to choose between one of two gendered categories.
Sullivan, who uses the pronouns he, she and they, is very much passionate about diversity and representation in the performing arts. The actor opted to stay out of the prestigious award because the acting awards are divided into categories for only "men" and "women".
"As a nonbinary performer playing a nonbinary principal role on Broadway, I have been asked by many what I plan on doing about this year's award season nomination categories," Sullivan said in a statement. "Because I was told I had no other option but to choose between one of the two gendered categories in which I would be eligible."
The 23-year-old said they had no choice but to abstain from being considered for a nomination this season. "I could not in good faith move forward with denying any part of my identity to conform to a system and structure that does not hold space for people like me."
Sullivan, who plays May in the jukebox musical &Juliet, shared they were disheartened to learn that the Tony Awards are not planning on making this year's nomination categories more inclusive of gender expansive for trans nonbinary performers like themselves.
The actor hopes the move can lead to a change in policy for future awards. "I am hopeful that award shows will learn from this and make meaningful changes necessary to consider, nominate and award people of all gender identities going forward.
Sullivan's greatest hope is for their art to continue to represent marginalized communities and shed light to the culture and experiences that they carry as an openly queer person. They started their musical theatre career at the age of 15. Sullivan played lead player in Pippin, Harry Potter in A Very Potter Musical and Troy Bolton in High School Musical: On Stage!
Tony Award Productions in Discussion
In an official statement, Tony Award Productions said they recognize that the current acting categories are not fully inclusive. "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 had 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 production has worked closely with Justin and their team. "We're fully supportive of Justin's request not to be considered for eligibility in either the Featured Actress or Featured Actor category.