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Tony Awards make history with non-binary nominations

Tony Awards acting categories are still gendered, leading one possible nominee to pull out of consideration.

By Emily Maskell

Alex Newell in Shucked and J. Harrison Ghee in Some Like It Hot are nominated for Tony Awards
Alex Newell from Shucked and J. Harrison Ghee from Some Like It Hot are nominated for Tony Awards (Instagram/@thealexnewell and @jharrisonghee)

Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee have made history as the first openly non-binary identifying actors to be nominated for Tony Awards.

Ghee is in the running for lead actor in a musical for starring in Some Like It Hot. In the adaptation of the Marilyn Monroe-led 1959 comedy, Ghee plays Jerry who adopts the disguise of Daphne.

Meanwhile, Newell is nominated in the category of supporting actor in the musical Shucked. They play Lulu, a sharp-minded whiskey distiller, in the pop-country comedy.

Newell has explained to Variety: “When I say I’m an actor, I mean that is my profession, the craft that I studied, the craft that I’m doing. Everyone who does acting is an actor. That is genderless.”

Both Some Like It Hot and Shucked have been nominated for a Tony for Best Musical.

Furthermore, a winner would join composer/lyricist Toby Marlow, who became the first openly non-binary person to be nominated and win a Tony Award. They shared the win for Six with Lucy Moss.

Because the acting categories at the Tony Awards are gendered, non-binary and gender-nonconforming actors must choose the category of consideration.

In response to this, & Juliet performer Justin David Sullivan dropped out of Tony consideration altogether.

“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, I felt that I had no choice but to abstain from being considered for a nomination this season,” they said in a statement in February.

“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.”

“My artistry and the work will speak for itself.”

Previously, Ghee told Elle: “Someone else’s labels or limits are not going to bound me and my ability to do anything.”

“My artistry and the work will speak for itself. What anybody claims or puts on is extra, and they’re trying to place someone else’s experience on me,” the non-binary actor also added. “I’m here to be intentional about my ministry and my work.”

“There’s room for all stories to exist and be told,” Ghee added. “Broadway just has to remain open to the conversation of… not limiting ourselves to being one thing.”

The Tony Awards will take place on 11 June 11 at the United Palace in New York City.