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Sykes, Wanda (b. 1964)  
page: 1  2  

In Las Vegas to perform, she attended one of the many rallies held around the country during the weekend of November 15 to protest the passage of Proposition 8. When an event organizer mentioned that Sykes was said to be in the crowd, she took the stage and gave an impassioned and emotional impromptu speech.

"I don't really talk about my sexual orientation. I didn't feel like I had to. I was just living my life, not necessarily in the closet, but I was living my life," she stated. In the aftermath of Proposition 8, however, she felt compelled to speak up, and she told the crowd, "I'm proud to be a woman. I'm proud to be a black woman, and I'm proud to be gay."

Sykes also revealed that she was a married woman, having wed in California in October 2008. She has identified her wife only by her first name, Alexandra (or nickname, Alex), noting, "She's not in show business. I want her to have as much of her private life as she can."

The couple, who met on Fire Island in the summer of 2006, married at a small hotel in Palm Springs with about forty family members and friends in attendance. They have since become parents; in April 2009 Alexandra gave birth to twins named Olivia Lou and Lucas Claude.

Sykes was chosen to perform as a headliner at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in May 2009, the first African-American woman and the first openly glbtq individual to be so honored. Her edgy routine, which included barbed shots at Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and, especially, at right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, drew criticism from some but praise from others. Her unrepentant candor on that occasion recalls the title of her book of comedic commentary, Yeah, I Said It (2004).

Sykes' HBO comedy special, I'ma Be Me, premiered in October 2009. The next month, The Wanda Sykes Show, a talk show, premiered on the Fox network.

Sykes has shown courage in speaking out on social issues, and it is to be hoped that she will continue to use her voice, her intelligence, her wit, and her humor to advance the quest for equality.

Linda Rapp

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arts >> Overview:  American Television, Situation Comedies

American television sitcoms have consistently reflected the presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, often in distorted and stereotyped ways, but occasionally in ways that acknowledge our humanity and complexity.

arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

Historically, cabarets and revues have been much more likely to mention or imply same-sex desire than the "legitimate" theater; and same-sex desire has been less frequently condemned in cabarets and revues than in mainstream plays.

arts >> Overview:  Comedy: Stand-Up, Lesbian

Lesbian stand-up comedy provides an excellent example of how comedy can foster social and political awareness in both minority and mainstream communities.

arts >> Overview:  Film Actors: Lesbian

Lesbian actresses have played a significant role in Hollywood, but their contributions have rarely been recognized or spoken of openly; the "lavender marriage" is by no means a relic of the past.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is a national organization in the United States dedicated to creating safe school environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

arts >> Cho, Margaret

Korean-American bisexual actress turned stand-up comedian Margaret Cho has become one of the most prominent Asian Americans in show business and in glbtq culture.

arts >> DeGeneres, Ellen

No matter how great her contribution to the world of comedy, Ellen DeGeneres will probably be best remembered as the first lesbian to star as a lesbian on her own network television show.

social sciences >> Proposition 8 (California)

Proposition 8, also known as the California Marriage Protection Act, was the ballot proposition that amended the California state constitution to ban same-sex marriage; after prolonged litigation in both state and federal court, it was finally struck down in June 2013.

arts >> Tyler, Robin

Charismatic performer and activist Robin Tyler has spent much of her life enmeshed in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights, from planning national marches to promoting same-sex marriage.


Karpel, Ari. "Black and Gay Like Me." The Advocate 1024 (March 2009): 54-57.

"Mom Was a Banker, Dad Was a Military Man . . . So, Naturally She Found Her Niche in Stand-up Comedy." Las Vegas Sun (July 15, 2008):

"Wanda Sykes." Yahoo! Movies:

Warn, Sarah. "Wanda Sykes Comes Out as Gay and Married." AfterEllen (November 15, 2008):


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Sykes, Wanda  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2009  
    Date Last Updated January 31, 2010  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2009 glbtq, Inc.  


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