2008 is a year that will go down in history for LGBT
people. It was a year of highs (gays and lesbians had a
stronger presence at the Democratic National
Convention than ever before) and a year of lows
(marriage bans passed in California, Arizona, and Florida,
while gays and lesbians were barred from adopting
children in Arkansas). Without question, 2008 was a
year to remember.
With the LGBT
rallies and protests that followed the passing of Prop. 8
in California, never before has our community been so
visible to mainstream America. Seldom before has the
work of The Advocate felt quite so urgent.
Each year The
Advocate names its People of the Year -- a handful
of names that made headlines, made a difference, or
simply made us talk throughout the year. From entertainers
to politicians, activists to newsmakers, LGBT
community demanded to be noticed in 2008.
Over the next
week, we will be rolling out The
Advocate’s People of the Year with a series of
extended interviews, extras, and video clips we
couldn’t share in our year-end issue.
To kick things
off, three people who gave us something to talk about in
Wanda Sykes has
long been a fan of the gays -- but it took the passing of
Prop. 8 for the outspoken comedian to tell the world she is
gay. Not that there weren’t little hints
dropped here and there.
She has regularly
spoken out in support of gay rights in comedy routines,
such as this classic on our right to marry.
As one of Ellen’s regular guests, she taken on topics such as homophobic Oklahoma legislator Sally Kern and California's Prop. 8.
And on this season’s The New Adventures of Old Christine, she tied the knot with the title character (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) to keep from being deported -- and they even sealed it with a kiss.
But it was a rally in Las Vegas following the passing of Prop. 8 that led Wanda to tell the world she’s gay. Surrounded by friends, Sykes addressed the crowd, saying, “We took a huge leap forward and then got dragged about 12 steps back.”
With that “we,” Sykes took a huge leap forward herself.
In late March, when The Advocate published a first-person article written by Thomas Beatie, a transgender man who was five months pregnant, the magazine received a handful of letters applauding the Oregon husband for telling his story. But when the article and accompanying photo of Beatie -- naked and showing -- went online, the story took on a life of its own.
Attention swelled again when Beatie gave birth to a baby girl in late June and yet again when he announced in November he was carrying another child. But each time the public’s reaction was more muted than the last. The initial shock of Beatie has faded to something resembling understanding.
This summer, when Californians were still agog at their newfound right to marry, few knew the role Mormons would play in the gathering storm of opposition. Bruce Bastian was one of them: On July 28, the WordPerfect cofounder and former Latter-day Saints church member donated $1 million to the No on 8 campaign precisely because he knew what was coming. And with that donation, Bastian became one of the bright spots in an ugly battle -- the philanthropist who got out front on Prop. 8.
Check back throughout the week as we continue to announce The Advocate’s People of the Year. (Anne Stockwell, Sean Kennedy, and Ross von Metzke, Advocate.com)