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Nate Silver: 'Sexually Gay But Ethnically Straight'

OUT Editor Aaron Hicklin delivers an engaging profile of Nate Silver, whom the magazine has named its 'Person of the Year'. Over drinks, Silver goes in depth with Hicklin about his critics, about how he became so good at being a stats geek (perspiration), what his plans are for the future, and his sexuality:

Silver“To my friends, I’m kind of sexually gay but ethnically straight,” explains Silver, who came out to his parents after spending a year in London studying economics—“I don’t know how I got any work done”—and considers gay conformity as perfidious as straight conformity. He supports marriage equality, but worries that growing acceptance of gays will dent our capacity to question broader injustice.

“For me, I think the most important distinguishing characteristic is that I’m independent-minded,” he says. “I’m sure that being gay encouraged the independent-mindedness, but that same independent-mindedness makes me a little bit skeptical of parts of gay culture, I suppose.”

He recalls a series of flagpoles in Boystown in Chicago memorializing various gay Americans. “There was one little plaque for Keith Haring, and it was, like, ‘Keith Haring, gay American artist, 1962 to 1981,’ or whatever [actually 1958 to 1990], and I was like, Why isn’t he just an American artist? I don’t want to be Nate Silver, gay statistician, any more than I want to be known as a white, half-Jewish statistician who lives in New York.”

Nate Silver: Person of the Year [out]

Incidentally, Silver spoke out about his sexuality for the first time earlier this year, so, though technically out, he made our big list of the '50 Most Powerful Coming Outs' because he decided to talk about it.

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  1. He is correct. In a perfect world your sexuality would be as important as your eye color.

    Posted by: Tom in long beach | Dec 18, 2012 10:35:29 AM

  2. Nate Silver is pretty cool but I'd have to disagree with his thoughts on Keith Haring. Keith was a loud, outspoken queer who drew dicks and tits in an age of sex panic and AIDS. He was outspoken about being queer in a dangerous time. It may not matter as much now, but it mattered then.

    Posted by: Paul | Dec 18, 2012 10:36:01 AM

  3. There is a 'not one of THOSE gays' aspect to he is saying that both resonates and grates on me.
    In reference to Keith Haring, he did so much work about AIDS and gay culture that 'Gay' is as much part of his cultural identity as 'Artist' is. While I get what he is saying that gay shouldn't have to be a qualifier, there may have been a better example.

    Posted by: Heartsleeved | Dec 18, 2012 10:37:38 AM

  4. Hmmmmm. good guy, mixed feelings on some of those quotes. some are just those things i gave up saying in my early-twenties.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 18, 2012 10:38:53 AM

  5. Nate Silver is too young to remember the hell of the mid-1980s for gay people. Keith Haring was a hero to us because he was unashamed to be gay in a time when there were very few role models.

    Posted by: homer | Dec 18, 2012 10:39:29 AM

  6. Nate Silver would make a good guest on "The Big Bang Theory" ..maybe as a cousin of Sheldon'?

    Posted by: Disgusted American | Dec 18, 2012 10:46:15 AM

  7. I guess the things he said wouldn't really bother me so much if they weren't classic things self-loathing gays say.

    Posted by: Chris | Dec 18, 2012 10:49:57 AM

  8. "Self-loathing gay" is the most presumptuous phrase found on this site. Nate Silver is one squared away dude. He knows who he is and no one knows better.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Dec 18, 2012 10:54:16 AM

  9. Don't really agree with what he's saying. Gay culture will never go away. And there's nothing wrong with being recognized for your work while also representing a community. You can be a successful Jewish American and be profiled by a Jewish American magazine and there's nothing wrong with that, just like being identified as a gay American and being profiled by a gay american magazine.

    Posted by: reality | Dec 18, 2012 10:54:37 AM

  10. Nate Silver is too young to know much of anything about LGBT history and apprently he isn't interested in finding out.


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Dec 18, 2012 10:55:54 AM

  11. “I’m sure that being gay encouraged the independent-mindedness, but that same independent-mindedness makes me a little bit skeptical of parts of gay culture, I suppose.”

    I agree with that 100%; for a long time I didn't like identifying myself as "gay" because of all of the cultural baggage that comes with it...and, with some tinkering, it kinda sorta fits how I felt about being black as well.

    In cultural anthropological terms, Silver (and myself, really) places much more value on achieved identity as opposed to ascribed identity.

    There's different ways of looking at the whole thing...Silver's way of looking at it resonates with me, though.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Dec 18, 2012 10:56:26 AM

  12. Big fan of Nate here, but it's a shame his understanding of art history is so inferior to his understanding of analysis of variance.

    Posted by: SC David | Dec 18, 2012 11:00:16 AM

  13. you can't get to step 20 without steps 1-19.

    we can't be "post-gay" (massive eye-roll) before we claim and own and are empowered by a gay Identity, first.

    "i don't want to be just seen as gay" is the kind of comment one makes when still feeling *hindered* by associations to "gay" - , the result of a still-negative social stigma.

    the way to combat that negative? openness and no longer living each day in fear of how the anti-gay side(s) view you.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 18, 2012 11:00:58 AM

  14. With Silver's quotes, if only he was Republican. Then you'd all be free to scream "..self-hating..!" Or if he fell into ANY of the gay "enemy" categories.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 18, 2012 11:04:00 AM

  15. Nate is unpretentious and down to earth, but anyone who dismisses him is a fool.

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 18, 2012 11:13:59 AM

  16. This board keeps eating my comment which is a response to Little Kiwi.

    Basically it said that it's not so easy as accepting openness and living happily ever after. I would like to post my response and not have it get eaten.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Dec 18, 2012 11:21:34 AM

  17. Nate Silver was photographed for the Out 100 back in 2010. He did not come out this year. Get over it Towleroad.

    Posted by: KT | Dec 18, 2012 11:21:48 AM

  18. Nate Silver was photographed for the Out 100 back in 2010. He did not come out this year. Get over it Towleroad.

    Posted by: KT | Dec 18, 2012 11:21:49 AM

  19. I love to see same-sex oriented people who are honest about their attractions but reject the "gay" identity for themselves. Most same-sex oriented people do not publicly identify as gay, and it is not all because of homophobia.

    Posted by: Javier | Dec 18, 2012 11:22:52 AM

  20. ".... that same independent-mindedness makes me a little bit skeptical of parts of gay culture..."
    Couldn't agree more!
    Frivolous drag b.s., some appalling diva worship practices(such as that of Material Maggot...and is it really coincidental that initials of the name of that deranged one who flashed her snatch to the leering paparazzis is also B.S., but, then, it's common knowledge that the forementioned Vampire Maggot sucked the life, or, whatevah's left of it, anyway, out of that exploited poor thing with that cheap lezzie bit for show...)... and complete the list w/ all the absurd and detrimental mass hysteria and psychosis that have been passing as the ghey subcultcha!!

    Posted by: iban4yesu | Dec 18, 2012 11:29:09 AM

  21. What does "ethnically" straight mean? Do they mean "ethically straight" (some kind of prude)? Help, please. Thanks!

    Posted by: Darren in atl | Dec 18, 2012 11:33:47 AM

  22. Good for him. We need more free thinkers and fewer lemmings. Keith Haring was a joke. I saw his "art." It looked like the obscene doodlings of a 13-year old. You can take Keith Haring's art and 75% of "gay culture" and toss it in the trash for all I care.

    What is called "gay culture" is actually a subculture created by a tiny minority of gays, nearly all white, affluent, urban males devoted to promoting sex with multiple partners. That is what Keith Haring is about. Gee, what ever happened to good ole Keith?

    Posted by: Michael | Dec 18, 2012 11:34:32 AM

  23. Michael, you sound like the absolute worst kind of gay. I'm glad I don't know you.

    Posted by: Paul | Dec 18, 2012 11:38:31 AM

  24. actually, "Michael", what you just described sounds more like the Same Malone (yes, from CHEERS) style of life. You know, what 20-30-something heterosexuals are doing.

    i love how the guys on here who think that they're, uh, not "gay conformists" are merely living lives based on a fear of what ignorant straight people think about gay people.

    if you want to one day live in a world where being gay is not a hinderance to people in life, you have a responsibility to own being gay, to identify with being gay, to be OPENLY GAY, and thus change culture all over by taking away the "secret gay" nonsense.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 18, 2012 11:43:49 AM

  25. I admire Nate. He's respectful but true to himself without needing to compare himself to anyone or any "standard". I don't really understand the "history" and "culture" comments others are making here. Can't someone be gay in 2012 their own way? And yes before I get attacked, I'm fairly ignorant of our history and culture. Ok, now you can let the arrows sling.

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 18, 2012 11:48:52 AM

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