Wanda Sykes talks to Oprah about coming out, getting married and being gay in Hollywood

Last night on Oprah’s Next Chapter, Oprah Winfrey sat down with comedian Wanda Sykes, Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Dan Bucatinsky (who won an Emmy for his role on Scandal) to discuss being gay in Hollywood. Right out of the gate you could see that Wanda Sykes would be the highlight of the evening. Her response to Oprah asking if she knew Jesse and Dan was to retort with, “Yes…we have meetings the same way black people do.” Once they sat down, each took the time to share their coming out stories. Jesse Tyler Ferguson came out to his dad a total of three times before he eventually got it and grew to accept his son. Dan Bucatinsky came out in his early twenties as a bisexual, which was a lie, forcing him to come out all over again to an accepting mother.

Wanda, on the other hand, had a very different story. She told Oprah that she came out to her mother when she was 40 over the phone. Her mother was devastated and cancelled plans to visit her daughter. Only recently has she come to accept Wanda and her grandchildren. This led Oprah to ask, “But when did you come out to yourself?” I found the question to be poignant and, based on Wanda’s reaction, she seemed to share the same thought. Like many of us, she knew in grade school that she was different but it only led to feelings of confusion. Her second coming out to herself was after her divorce and this time she embraced who she was. When she met her wife, she finally shared a connection and experienced the true intimacy that evaded her in her first marriage.

Another topic touched on was how being black adds another dimension to being gay. Wanda referred to her situation as the “trifecta of discrimination” due to being black, gay and a woman. From their discussion, I could see it also adds to the pressure of being in the public eye. Not only is she expected by some to represent the gay community (as all the guests feel is expected of them), but the black community as well. Dan put it best when he stated that we all need activists to pick up a bullhorn and fight for our rights, but we also need people who happen to just be.

That sentiment has now reached television and film. Sixteen years after Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out episode, there are characters on television who just happen to be gay. Shows like Modern Family, which Jesse referred to as a Trojan Horse, enter people’s living rooms and soon they realize that gay families are just like their own. Dan was proud that his children got to see him thank his on-screen husband as well as his real life husband in his recent Emmy win for his role on Scandal. Shows like these, and many others, are bringing the idea of the normalcy of gay relationships into people’s homes across the country.

Wanda shared this when asked about the thought that gay marriage will ruin this country and the sanctity of marriage. “I don’t understand why people really get upset about something that doesn’t affect them. And I say, do you know how many people got married yesterday? Neither do I and I don’t care.” Her own marriage gave her an amazing moment when introducing her wife to the President and First Lady. It was crazy to her that the word “wife” when referring to a same sex partner was so readily accepted by the Obamas in casual conversation. Jesse added that something so small like checking the married box on doctor’s form brought him such joy. Simple moments like these are so relatable to anyone in the LGBT community.

Wanda ended the show with her thoughts on what still needs to be done, “There are still 29 states where you can be fired for being gay. Marriage is one thing, but we still need equality. Because if you can’t get a job no one is going to marry you. Nobody wants your broke ass.” Great point, Wanda, and you always get the last laugh.

If you missed this episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter it will air again on Friday, November 1 at 10 pm and again on November 2  at 1 am.