Wanda Sykes says she had to come out to show that LGBT+ equality isn’t just for ‘white gay men’
Wanda Sykes has said that part of the reason she came out in 2008 was to put a face on LGBT+ equality that wasn’t “just white gay men”.
Sykes was 44 when she came out as a lesbian while on stage at a Las Vegas equal marriage rally.
The event was in protest against Prop 8, a law which invalidated same-sex marriages in California, including Sykes’ own. It has since been overturned.
“The drive behind me coming out publicly was when it became political, back when Proposition 8 was being talked about,” Sykes wrote for Oprah’s O Magazine.
“I felt like I had to say something. You’re inspecting my life, the life that I have?
You’re saying that my marriage isn’t legal? That’s when I said alright, it’s important to speak out.
Sykes, whose work as a writer was first recognised in 1999, when she won a primetime Emmy award for writing on The Chris Rock Show, continued: “Also, I wanted to put a face on who that was affecting, not just white gay men.
“There are women. There are mothers. There are real people involved in these votes that affect lives and kids.
“After I gave my speech in Las Vegas, by the time I went back to the hotel, it was on TV and I was like, ‘Oh, okay. I’m out.’ It was like, ‘Oh, cool.’ I already said what was the truth.”
Diverse LGBT+ representation is powerful.
Sykes has previously spoken about how after she came out, people treated her like a “unicorn” for being an out, Black lesbian.
This is one of the reasons, she wrote, that representation is so important.
“I know how powerful television can be,” Sykes wrote.
“It’s important for us to show how important LGBTQ+ representation is and how it can change minds in society.”
“Representation in Hollywood has gotten much better, especially now with shows like Pose that highlight the African American and transgender community. I’m happy to see that.
“I also love stories where you have gay characters, but it’s not just about being gay, it’s not just about identity. Shonda Rhimes does a great job of that.”
Wanda Sykes is a producer on Apple TV’s Visible: Out on Television.
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Last year, Wanda Sykes was announced as a producer on the new Apple TV+ LGBT+ docuseries, Visible: Out on Television.
The series will feature never-before-seen interviews with the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Billy Porter, Rachel Maddow, Don Lemon, Sara Ramirez and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, among others.
It’s this kind of thing that Sykes said she came out for.
“I think it’s helped when I mention my wife on stage,” she added. Sykes married Alex Niedbalski in 2008, a month before she came out on stage in Las Vegas.
“I hope we can get to a place where it’s normal to say, ‘Yeah, my wife and I,’ and it’s not, ‘oh my god!’
“Which is why it’s important to have representation. Television really is educational and it does affect society and how we see each other.”