Lea DeLaria: We Cannot Forget ‘Butch Dykes and Nelly Faggots.’


To Lea DeLaria Orange Is the New Black’s Big Boo is more than just one of the first “three-dimensional butch dykes” she’s had the chance to play. She’s a symbol of LGBTQ history:

“We cannot forget where we came from.” DeLaria told Buzzfeed in an interview. “We cannot forget our history. And butch dykes and nelly faggots, that’s where we came from.”

DeLaria sees her personal experiences with fans as a testament of the show’s progressive impact on audiences:

[T]eenage boys come up to me on the street and want to get their pictures taken with me, want to give me a hug, tell me that Big Boo’s their favorite character. That means a lot to me. Because I’m winning the hearts and minds of people that are young and are going to grow up and control the world.”

DeLaria, you may not know, is also an accomplished jazz singer.

Listen to her sing "Black Hole Sun", AFTER THE JUMP


  1. Pandion says

    What does it mean, “butch dykes and nelly faggots, that’s where we came from”? Historically there were only “butch dykes and nelly faggots”? I don’t really think so.

  2. I wont grow up says

    Lea has got some great acting chops. She has displayed them in numerous roles, one of my favorites is “The Edge of Seventeen”, she’s particularly good as a mentor for a boy coming out at the edge of 17, and we get a small sample of her incredible singing talent. You just gotta love this amazing woman.

  3. Hank says

    @pandion. Butch dykes and nelly fags who couldn’t, or wouldn’t hide, or blend in, were, just by their existence, the front line of visibility and activism, since long before there WAS an LGBT movement.

  4. L'Herb says

    Wow, I’ve always been a fan, and have seen Edge of Seventeen too many times to count, and LOVE OITNB, but I had now idea she was THAT talented of a singer!!

  5. gregorybrown says

    The desire to “normalize” queerness is understandable in practical terms but it is an ahistorical effort to induce cultural amnesia.

    The folks at Stonewall were NOT “nice”, They were fags and drags and fought back because their investment in their own self-worth was greater than anything they felt for suburban sub rose “homosexuals”. We may not want to think of some of them in our homes but they are a big part of who we are now. And they are still among us. Rejoice.

  6. Kurtis Edwards says

    I typically dislike really stereotypical characters. However, she is brilliant actress and brings so much humanity to her character on Orange is the new black.

    This Soundgarden cover was amazing. Just awesome.

  7. WRR says

    You don’t have to be a “queer studies major” to know and respect queer history and the blood shed to put us where we are today. Some of us lived it, and are still around to talk about it. It’s true: The dykes and nelly fags refused to blend in and conform, and they fought for the right to be themselves in life and in death. Were it not for them, we would not be where we are with AIDS treatment and marriage equality, and the ability to “blend in” (or not), send our kids to school and have BBQs with all of our straight neighbors. I said goodbye a long time ago to too many good people. What a difference 20 years makes, much less 50.

  8. UFFDA says

    I am uncomfortable to the core with bull dykes and nelly faggots. That’s the way it is. However, persecuting them is grossly immoral. Delaria has from time to time behaved like a vulgar pig, she is also talented and funny. We steer between the rocks. I look forward to this film.

  9. Mike in the Tundra says

    @ Uffda – where to begin? Steering clear of butch dykes and nelly faggots has apparently left you unable to tell the difference between a TV screen and a theater screen.

  10. Drew in SF CA says

    I love Lea. She’s an amazing talent. Her cover of “The Ballad of Sweeny Todd” is masterful. Even Stephen Sondheim was blown away by it.

  11. Pandion says

    Again, I’m not so sure that the Stonewall crowd (indeed mostly dykes and drag queens) were the “frontline of the LGBT movement”…
    The first gay activists, Karl Ulrichs, Magnus Hirschfeld, Edward Carpenter, and in America for instance Kameny or Dale Jennings, were not nellies at all.
    And the original Stonewall movement only fought for the “freedom” for gays to screw each other to death in bars and clubs.
    It was a later generation who fought for marriage etc (=true equality). And Larry Kramer, for instance, doesn’t seem a particularly nelly fag.

  12. Dare says

    I saw this woman do her stand up act many years ago. No talent at all. Jokes weren’t funny, delivery was awful, and she was so careful to use PC terminology that it threw off her timing. Worse, she made jokes about castrating men and killing all men.

    I would not take any moral advice from her.

  13. kdknyc says

    Having been a nelly faggot coming out on Oklahoma in 1980, I celebrate Lea. I heard loads of crap about “try to look normal and act normal so the straights won’t be uncomfortable”, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t pass.

    I’m in New York now, and glad I did what I did and am who I am-nelly faggot and all.

  14. Hank says

    @pandion I wasn’t referring to the Stonewall crowd. I was referring to butches and fags who have been visible wherever they were, in the first half of the twentieth century and before, when and where being a butch or a fag , especially for working class people, was BOTH the only way to be visible, and thus the only way to affirm a gay or lesbian social identity and begin to create an actual community, or connect with others like oneself, AND was also highly dangerous.

    “We” as a visible community of people, who have learned to stand up for ourselves, began in important ways with ” them.”

    Not sure what your further unpleasant ramblings about AIDS and Larry Kramer have to do with any of this… I hope you will read some gay social history of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.

  15. Pandion says

    I read for instance about Edward Carpenter founding the first “gay commune” in England in the 19th century. Nothing nelly-like about him either. And what’s the merit of being visible when you can’t hide? It’s just an inevitability, not an act of courage.

  16. says

    So much internalized heterosexism in Lea DeLaria’s comment, and in this comment thread. There is no such thing as “d*kes”, “f*ggots” and “queers”. They are figments of a hater’s imagination! I refuse to exist within the limited mentality of a bigot. Others seem OK with it.

  17. Mike in the Tundra says

    @ Uffda – I’ll make this as simple as possible, because you obviously need things made simple. “Orange is the New Black” is a TV show, not a movie.

  18. Countervail says

    Well that’s interesting. Because I got drunk with her at a party once and she proceeded to essentially tell me “nelly queens” needed to man up.

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