Metro Weekly

Nonbinary Actors Make Tony Award History

The 2023 Tony Award nominations have made history with their first acting nominations for nonbinary performers.

Christian Borle and J. Harrison Ghee: Some Like It Hot -- Photo:  Marc J Franklin
Christian Borle and J. Harrison Ghee: Some Like It Hot — Photo: Marc J Franklin

The 2023 Tony Award nominations have made history as two nonbinary actors, J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell, have been nominated – a first for the biggest award in theater.

Newell, who uses all pronouns, has been nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for their role as Lulu in Shucked, a musical love story set on a corn farm.

In the show, Newell portrays a female character, but they decided to submit themselves in the actor category.

Ghee, who uses he/they pronouns, is nominated in the Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical category for their portrayal of Jerry/Daphne in Some Like It Hot.

The musical – the most-nominated show of the year – is an adaptation of the film of the same name that starred two cisgender men dressing in drag as women to avoid bad guys chasing them.

These nominations are an important milestone for the LGBTQ community in theater, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is happy with the fact that the Tonys still use gendered categories.

Earlier this year, nonbinary actor Justin David Sullivan took their name out of contention for a Tony nomination as a protest that the organization still uses gendered categories.

Sullivan played a nonbinary character in the show & Juliet, which is centered around Max Martin’s music.

“I was told that I had to choose [the category in which] I felt comfortable, and in that process, I struggled a lot,” Sullivan told Playbill at the time. “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 nonbinary character on Broadway and be nominated, and possibly potentially awarded. I felt like I couldn’t choose. I didn’t feel right being in either category because it didn’t resonate with me.”

Actor Asia Kate Dillon, who starred in Macbeth last year, has also asked to be removed from the acting categories in 2022 as they identify as nonbinary.

While not perfect, it’s clear that the Tonys are making progress faster than almost any other major award show.

L Morgan Lee was nominated for the 2022 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in A Strange Loop on Broadway, making history as the first openly transgender actor to be nominated for a trophy.

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