Orange is the New Black Star to Play Trans-Exclusionary Music Festival
UPDATE: DeLaria has withdrawn from the festival. See her full statement regarding that decision here.
Late last month, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival announced the lineup for its annual celebration, including out singer, comedian, and actress Lea DeLaria. The Orange is the New Black star was added to the Michfest lineup following Toronto-based quartet Hunter Valentine's decision to cancel their scheduled performance as a result of the festival's "Womyn Born Womyn" policy, which some have criticized as being transphobic.
DeLaria, who plays Carrie "Big Boo" Black on the popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black, has worked as a stand-up comedian for nearly 30 years. In 1993, she became the first openly LGBT comedian to appear on a late-night talk show when she performed on The Arsenio Hall Show. Since then, she's toured as a comedian, and has found regular work as a film and stage actress.
Michfest's "Womyn Born Womyn" policy restricts festival attendance to cisgender women, prohibiting trans women. In recent years, protests against the festival's policy have ramped up, and following public pressure, out poet Andrea Gibson and Michfest mainstays The Indigo Girls announced that they would not return to Michfest until festival organizers opened attendance to all women, including trans women.
DeLaria's decision to perform at Michfest struck some as strange, given that the festival explicitly discriminates against trans women like her Orange costar Laverne Cox.
Tom Léger, editor-in-chief of PrettyQueer.com and publisher at LGBT publishing house Topside Press, asked DeLaria on Twitter about this apparent conflict of interest. "That's a skewed view," DeLaria replied. When others tweeted at DeLaria asking for clarification about what she found "skewed" about Léger's statement, DeLaria did not reply.
@tomleger that is a skewed view.
— Lea DeLaria (@realleadelaria) May 6, 2014
Michigan Womyn's Music Festival takes place August 5 through 10.