GA Voice - - National Lgbt Pride -

“Or­ange Is the New Black” is now in its fourth sea­son. Is that hard to be­lieve?

It’s re­ally shock­ing for me to be­lieve it’s our fourth sea­son. I thought I’d have way more money by now!

How is post-“Or­ange” life dif­fer­ent from pre-“Or­ange” life? Are you rec­og­nized more of­ten on the streets?

Oh yeah, I’m rec­og­nized non­stop. Be­fore – first of all, not every­body was car­ry­ing their cam­era with them like they do now, so I would get stopped… I’d get stopped enough. I wouldn’t say fre­quently, and I wouldn’t say in­fre­quently; it was some­where in the mid­dle. Gen­er­ally, it’s “Hey, you’re Lea DeLaria; can I have your au­to­graph?” Now I can’t even walk out of my front doorstep.

How does the treat­ment of LGBT char­ac­ters and sex­u­al­ity on “Or­ange” com­pare to your pre­vi­ous les­bian roles, both big and small?

What’s dif­fer­ent about it more than any­thing else in the world is that it’s real. Be­lieve me, as you’ve said, I played a lot of them, big and small, and I can as­sure you I’ve said “no” more than I’ve said “yes” to these roles. A lot of roles I say no to are be­cause they’re just so com­pletely stereo­typed and bull­shit that I won’t play them any­more.

What’s your ear­li­est mem­ory of sub­vert­ing gen­der norms? Were you a tomboy?

Yeah, I was what we called a tomboy back then. It’s very in­ter­est­ing… when I went to a thrift store and got my first suit and put it on for the first time, it was like putting on my own skin. I was 17.

What were you feel­ing in that mo­ment in 1993 as the first openly gay comic on “The Arse­nio Hall Show?”

Scared as shit! Ter­ri­fied, just ter­ri­fied. All I could think was, “What if I bomb?” And I had “20/20” fol­low­ing me. I’m not sure how it hap­pened but the uni­verse aligned and the plan­ets aligned per­fectly and I killed. The au­di­ence could have hated me. I was not lightly gay, if you know what I mean. I wasn’t gaylite. I was as queer as it gets.

They did an ar­ti­cle in The Ad­vo­cate right after it hap­pened. They taped it and ap­par­ently I said the words “dyke,” “fag” and “queer” 47 times. I mean, it was the sec­ond sen­tence I ut­tered: “Hello every­body, I’m Lea DeLaria. It’s the 1990s, it’s hip to be queer and I’m a big dyke.”

We needed some­body to be that per­son.

The lesser known story is that they al­most didn’t air it be­cause I said “queer” and “dyke” and “fag.” The lawyers called Arse­nio in and said, “We don’t think you should let this go out.” They were try­ing to pull it and Arse­nio had a fit and said, “She’s a dyke. If she wants to call her­self a dyke then it’s none of your fuck­ing busi­ness.” He fought for it and got me on the air.

More re­cently, you called out a preacher while on the New York sub­way.

That guy? It’s an in­sult to preach­ers to call him a preacher. He’s just a ho­mo­pho­bic ass­hole.

It went vi­ral.

It went vi­ral so fast I couldn’t be­lieve it, in fact. I was on TMZ within a half hour. That was the thing: I was on a sub­way on my way to the stu­dio – we were film­ing – so what had hap­pened, I got out of the sub­way and I called my man­ager. I said, “Look, I had a con­fronta­tion. Some­body pulled out their phone and they video­taped it so there might be some­thing on so­cial me­dia.” Twenty min­utes later, he called me and said, “You’re on TMZ.” It was hi­lar­i­ous! It just went nuts.

You’ve spo­ken many times on the topic

of “in­fight­ing.” Have you seen any no­tice­able change re­gard­ing the uni­fi­ca­tion of the queer com­mu­nity?

Ab­so­lutely not. I speak about it a lot, but when we come to­gether and don’t in­fight we get a lot done. This is the big­gest is­sue we have in the queer com­mu­nity to date and will con­tinue to be the big­gest is­sue un­til we learn to ac­cept our dif­fer­ences, and that’s the is­sue. And part of me be­lieves that this in­clu­siv­ity of call­ing us the LGBTQQTY-what­ever-LMNOP tends to stress our dif­fer­ences. And that’s why I refuse to do it. I say queer. Queer is every­body.

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