In Historic Night time for Nonbinary Performers, J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell Win Tony Awards

J. Harrison Ghee, whose portrayal of a gender-questioning musician fleeing the mob in “Some Like It Sizzling” has charmed critics and audiences, received a Tony Award for greatest main actor in a musical Sunday night time, turning into the primary out nonbinary actor to win that award.

Ghee’s victory got here shortly after Alex Newell, who can also be nonbinary, received a Tony Award for greatest featured actor in a musical, turning into the primary out nonbinary performer to win a Tony.

The wins come at a time when gender identification has grow to be a central ingredient of America’s tradition wars, as conservatives in a number of states press for laws on a wide range of L.G.B.T.Q.-related points, together with gender-affirming medical take care of transgender youngsters and youngsters, rest room entry, sports activities participation and, in some states, performances.

The Tony Awards, just like the Oscars, have solely gendered classes for performers, and Ghee and Newell agreed to be thought of eligible for awards as actors. (One other nonbinary performer this season, Justin David Sullivan of “& Juliet,” opted to not be thought of for awards somewhat than compete in a gendered class.)

Requested in a current interview with The New York Instances about having been nominated in a gendered class, Ghee mentioned: “Wherever I’m, I’ll present up as who I’m. Somebody’s compartmentalization of me doesn’t restrict me in any method.

“I hope for the trade we will take away the gender of it,” they added, “as a result of we’re creators and we should always free ourselves past so many labels and let the work converse for itself.”

No less than two performers who later got here out as nonbinary have beforehand received Tony Awards as greatest featured actress in a musical: Sara Ramirez, who received in 2005 for “Spamalot,” and Karen Olivo (also referred to as Ok O), who received in 2009 for a revival of “West Aspect Story.” Additionally: Final yr, the Tony Award for greatest rating went to Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss for “Six,” and Marlow is nonbinary.

Ghee’s depiction of a principal character in “Some Like It Sizzling” displays the way in which views on gender have developed since 1959, when the Billy Wilder movie it was based mostly on was launched. Within the film Jack Lemmon performs a musician named Jerry who clothes as a girl named Daphne to flee the mob; within the musical Ghee performs the identical character, however Jerry’s path to turning into Daphne turns into certainly one of self-discovery, not disguise.

The efficiency earned vital reward. Jesse Inexperienced, The Instances’s chief theater critic, wrote that Ghee “fastidiously traces Jerry’s transformation into Daphne, after which the merging of the 2 identities into a 3rd that takes us into territory that’s much more complicated than jokey drag.”

Ghee, 33, labored as a drag performer earlier than discovering success in musical theater, with key roles on Broadway in “Kinky Boots” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” earlier than “Some Like It Sizzling.”