Trans Hamilton Actor Flies Discrimination Complaint After Asking for Gender-Neutral Bathroom
Suni Reid, a transgender performer on the hit Broadway show Hamilton, has accused the production of discrimination against them for asking for a gender-neutral dressing room.
Per the complaint, which was published by The Hill, Suni Reid, who has been apart of the New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles Hamilton productions, did not have their contract renewed. The issue is that this dismissal allegedly came after Reid “requested that the performers have a gender-neutral dressing room in addition to the ones for men and women.”
“Unfortunately, during Mx. Reid’s years with the show, which purports to be an icon of diversity, they have experienced frequent incidents of discrimination and harassment from cast members and management of Hamilton based upon their race, sexual orientation/LGBTQ+ status, gender, and gender identity,” the complaint stated. “This genderneutral dressing space would be usable by other members of the cast as well, not just Mx. Reid, and multiple other actors expressed interest in using a gender-neutral dressing room.”
A Hamilton spokesperson responded to the allegations in a statement to PEOPLE, “Suni Reid was a valued cast member for more than three years. We offered them a contract to return to Hamilton with terms responsive to their requests. We deny the allegations in the Charge. We have not discriminated or retaliated against Suni.”
“Since the shutdown, our organization has taken care of our community. We have treated Suni with the same respect and consideration as all the company members of Hamilton. Specifically, we have given Suni direct financial support, paid for their health insurance, and paid for their housing. We wish Suni well in their future endeavors.”
The complaint, according to PEOPLE, details that some form of accommodations were eventually made when another cast member, Rory O’Malley, willingly gave up his private dressing room. However, “Even though Hamilton had relented and set up a gender-neutral dressing room that could be used by at least three cast members at a time, the Company’s management continued to exclude Mx. Reid from performances and would not finalize their contract.”
Lawrence M. Pearson and Lindsay M. Goldbrum, the attorneys for Reid, said in a statement to PEOPLE:
“Publicly, Hamilton is a beacon of diversity and appears committed to causes seeking social justice and harmony. Behind the curtain, however, the Company’s management will force out a Black, transgender cast member simply because they stood up for themselves and advocated for a more equitable workplace, and therefore called that public image into question. We look forward to upholding Mx. Reid’s rights and hope this is a wake-up call for the theater industry about the systemic inequities that persist even at its greatest heights.”
Hamilton is not the only Broadway show with this type of discrimination issue. According to Deadline, two former cast members from Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill, including Tony-nominated featured actress Celia Rose Gooding, released statements accusing the production of doing “harm to the trans and non-binary community both onstage and off.”
Nora Schell, a Black non-binary actor in the chorus, wrote that during previews of the musical in 2019, they were told by their gynecologist that surgery for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome was needed. They said that news was either “ignored or downplayed by a stage manager and, later, members of the creative team.”
“When I relayed the possibility of these growths returning/needing surgery again in the future,” Schell wrote, “I was met with exasperation and told that if I had to take off, it wouldn’t be considered paid medical leave.”
Schell said that as a result of the lack of support, she postponed surgery for a month: “I’ve been vaguely referencing mistreatment for years, and this is certainly not an exhaustive account of my experiences, but it is certainly the most alarming, fundamentally wrong and DANGEROUS incident I experienced. I’m still dealing with the consequences of waiting to get this surgery.”
Patten addressed the controversy around her onstage character, Jo. In the show’s pre-Broadway run, the character had been written and played as non-binary, but those references were removed when the show moved to Broadway, changed to present a gay cis woman.
“It is my deepest hope,” Patten wrote on Instagram, “for Jo to be a character that can be claimed and owned by folks of many queer identities — butch and masc women, nonbinary and genderqueer folks, trans men, and many more. Theatre has the power and the potential to be expansive, and I hope that Jo can be a representation of that moving forward.”
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Broadway has a lot to learn when it comes to embracing the trans and non-binary communities behind the scenes.
(via PEOPLE, image: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
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