Wanda Sykes has never been one to edit herself. The foul-mouthed and very opinionated comedian has been telling it like it is for years. While she may have no problem telling others to piss off, she got a little shy talking to The Advocate this month about coming out, meeting her future wife on a ferry ride to Fire Island and being a so-called “lesbian spokeswoman” for the black community.
Wanda has not been shouting her sexuality from the rooftops over the years, but told the magazine her friends and family knew she was gay for a while. Unfortunately, her legions of fans did not (though we did take a guess once or twice).
“Because I’m a celebrity I have to do this additional step,” Sykes told The Advocate, “which is to tell total strangers that I’m a lesbian.”
While she wasn’t thrilled about having had to take that step, the big dark cloud hanging over her marriage — Proposition 8 — made her realize how important it was to get involved in the fight for LGBT rights on a more vocal level.
After her speech at a Las Vegas Prop 8 rally in November, which was officially her big coming out,Sykes said she got back to her hotel room and saw her name on the CNN news crawl: I was like, Damn, whatever happened to ‘What happens in Vegas…’?”
The speech she made at the rally struck a chord for many people: “I’m proud to be a woman, I’m proud to be a black woman, and I’m proud to be gay. Let’s go get our damn equal rights.”
When asked about the race factor in the Prop 8 vote, Sykes said she in no way represents all black lesbians. “[African-Americans] are not all this homogenous group. If you live in your little community and you don’t know gay people and you don’t know that we’re loving people and we all want the same things, then you won’t be able to identify with them or care about that other group.”
“Speaking from the people I know,” she says, “it’s tougher for a black person to come out [than it is for someone who’s white]. Then again, I’m sure there’s some white people from the Bible Belt who have been disowned from their families and have had a hard time.”
Wanda said she knew she was a lesbian “earlier on,” but thought it would be safer to stick with the boys. She ended her marriage of seven years with record producer David Hall, for reasons she did not care to disclose (I am thinking what you’re all thinking, but she claims it was not because of her sexuality) and then she “actively started dating women.”
It wasn’t until the summer of 2006, on a ferry boat ride with friends to Cherry Grove no less, that she met the woman she would marry two years later: “It was like a voice inside me saying, ‘See, That’s what you need, Wanda, That’s what you need.’”
Only Ms. Sykes can be that mushy without grossing me out.
Whether it’s through activism or hopefully landing a not-so-sidekicky role, we are happy to have Wanda on our team, and with her wit, humor and no-holds-barred approach to whatever gets itnher way, we need her.
Do you think Wanda’s right about having to take the “extra step” because she’s a celebrity?