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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. @ Littlekiwi

    I'm sorry, do you take issue with me not wanting to be told how I should act or be?

    Your argument is that the only way to really be gay is to stop being how I naturally am, which is I don't care or think that I'm gay matters except whoever I am sleeping with, and be what social stereotypes say I should be?

    The only thing I denigrated was the stereotype, which is the socially and politically created image of a group of people despite the behavior of the "person." You seem to be taking umbrage when no insult was aimed in any direction, except at a stereotype that is already expected and assumed.

    There is no true uniform behavior for gay people, except that they fall in love with and are sexually attracted to people of their sex. I have no problem with feminine men. I work as a recreation therapist where my natural empathy and care-taking nature makes me good at my job. Stereotypes dictate that these are feminine qualities, but it is just how I am. I don't like the stereotype that just because I am gay I am supposed to be promiscuous and sex-obsessed because according to your logic the fact that I am not means I'm not a real gay person. And by the society's stereotype It is assumed that I am, even if I am not.

    Stop projecting and learn to accept that not everyone adheres to the stereotype and stereotype or label does not make you who you are.

    Posted by: Alexx | Dec 18, 2012 7:23:35 PM


  2. But Yupp, hypotheticals like that just lead one through the Looking Glass, so to speak. If he'd been a "good Republican", he'd probably have married a beard, and used his mathematical skills on Wall Street to make big bucks. In fact, I knew a guy who was probably very similar to Nate in some ways, and did exactly that. So we wouldn't even be having this conversation.
    You could be right that there's just a little bit of a double standard; but again, because Nate IS a quasi-liberal, he at least tried to moderate the tone of what he was saying so as not to seem too insensitive. That a Republican or Southerner probably wouldn't have done the same thing seems beyond obvious; because they don't think like liberals they don't know how to speak like liberals, generally speaking(!). Except at times in a stupidly caricatured way. But again my main point is he isn't even affixing a political compass to his speech - as it pertains to his sexuality - because he doesn't see his gayness as a political issue. Yes, as Kiwi points out he didn't _have to_ for a variety of reasons.

    Posted by: EchtKultig | Dec 18, 2012 7:30:08 PM


  3. You're not being told how to act. You're allowing straight idiots to control how you feel about being gay.

    Thats' why could learn a thing or twenty from the types of gay men you've just complained about - learn not to give a f**k what someone else thinks.

    Re-read what I wrote a few dozen times until it sinks you. You just created a straw-man argument to disagree with. I didn't tell you how to be, or how to act. You're making that up.

    Either as an insecure knee-jerk reaction or bad reading comprehension skills.

    You said they "grate" on you. You said you find things "repugnant"

    those are the hallmark feelings of someone who is still insecure about being gay. so work on it, or look forward to another number of years being afraid of how people will perceive you.

    "I don't like the stereotype that just because I am gay I am supposed to be promiscuous and sex-obsessed because according to your logic the fact that I am not means I'm not a real gay person."

    Except no matter how hard you go through anything i've ever written, you'll never find words to back that claim of yours up. Because I've never said. because I don't believe it.

    seriously. re-read and look what you did: you invented an argument that nobody has brought up, attributed it to me, then disagreed with it. strawman.

    you're a therapist? i weep for your patients. well, i would if they were real. no doubt this is a fabrication. *whew*

    and something tells me that there isn't a single soul in your day-to-day life that would ever think you'd be able to be promiscuous, even if you wanted to be....

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 18, 2012 7:32:31 PM


  4. Ech : Since you grant that there's somewhat of a double standard with how you guys are treating Nate Silver, I'll grant that it's, naturally, a little easier for you not to skewer him since he IS a liberal (quasi-liberal), and therefore less of a hypocrite, maybe.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 18, 2012 7:41:10 PM


  5. I hope everyone realizes that Yupp is just another version of troll Rick.

    Posted by: sugarrhill | Dec 18, 2012 7:41:45 PM


  6. hypotheticals + strawmen = fail.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 18, 2012 7:45:55 PM


  7. That's fine with me, Sugar. I haven't seen ALL of Rick's posts but I know I agree with some of them, anyway.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 18, 2012 7:49:32 PM


  8. Look, Silver is OBSESSED with baseball, so much so that he reinvented how stats are used in the game. What was his next move? Poker.

    Now I'm not saying that there are no gay men who love baseball and play poker at the level Silver was playing. Obviously there are because a top level poker player recently came out. But those aren't traditionally 'gay' interests so by following them Silver probably would only run into other gay men incidentally, unlike if his interest was, say, musical theater. Now if he felt compelled to pursue them he *could* have looked for gay baseball or poker groups and found them, but he didn't.

    To Mark and others I would ask, "If you were straight, do you think you could go to a NASCAR race, a gun show, or a model airplane meeting and meet some life-long friends?" (Maybe you could- I don't know what your interests are.) But if not, WHY not? Most of those people are straight and in this scenario so are you, so doesn't that mean you'd all get along, make lots of friends?

    Of course not, so why are you expecting something different in the gay community? It's an unreasonable expectation.

    With each part of you that deem important, central to your identity, you remove some people (gay or straight) from the list of people you're likely to make friends with.

    Admittedly, some political POVs will remove a LOT of them, but gay people who share that POV do exist. Now if you're looking for left-handed "straight-acting" gay Mormon bowlers who love Ann Coulter you very well may be sh*t out of luck. But don't blame other people for YOUR narrow expectations! You either need to learn to be a bit more flexible or get a dog. You have to open yourself up to other people, stop being so godd*mn judgmental, if you want to be accepted yourself.

    And that goes for the gay Left. I live in the semi-rural South and one of the people I most enjoy talking to is a gay Republican. (Though even HE didn't vote for Romney.) We fight like cats and dogs! If I had a dollar for every time I've yelled "You are SO full of sh*t!" I'd be a very rich man. But he also knows a lot about opera (which isn't my thing but the history is interesting), old movies, and European history.

    If you want to be accepted you ALSO have to accept other people, take them as they are. You's have to do the SAME thing if you were straight, though since you're dealing with a larger population your chances would probably be better. But tough t*tty, get over it.

    ;-)

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 18, 2012 7:57:23 PM


  9. *sigh*

    "Alexx, learn a lesson from those gay men who you take such issue with: learn to live each day not worrying what other people are thinking about you."

    -My issue is with the stereotype society has of us.

    "Those gay guys you just denigrated, the ones that "grate on you", are living with a freedom that you don't have."

    -Again, the stereotype grates one me, not actual gay people. In other words, the automatic expectation people expect me to act. As in, when people find out I'm gay they either tell me I'm not gay because I don;t act like it or they worry I'm going to start sleeping with a lot of people and get and SDI (this from my best friend, even though he has known I was gay for awhile).

    "They're living their lives without fear. You're living your life in fear of being associated with them."

    I'm proud to be gay. It is a "par" of who I am, but it isn't the only thing I am.

    "don't blame them for your insecurities, kiddo."

    -I don't.

    "congrats. you find "stereotypical gay culture" repugnant. with an attitude like that you deserve every ounce of anti-gay prejudice and hatred you're destined to continue experiencing in life."

    -That is your opinion. But the fact most people think all guys act like a character from Queer as Folk or as a guy who talks with a lisp and is obsessed with fashion and shopping is what I find repugnant. I love sex, but I wouldn't risk my life to get as much of it as I can. And to be honest, I think fashion--though sometimes aesthetically pleasing, does not mean a lot.

    As for me being a recreation therapist being a fabrication? You can choose to believe it is a lie. There is a completely different dynamic when you engage in 1 to 1 counseling with someone then a debate of perspectives.

    And no, I would never be promiscuous. I value trust and honesty far too much.

    Look, I'm not a veteran at these comments/internet battles. I merely spoke my opinion and you came at me with an air of condescension and aggressiveness I would normally only expect from someone in real life. Your first response implied that just because I don't like a stereotype I do not like people who may fit the stereotype, but my issue is the stereotype itself which perpetuates and over-generalization of gay people.

    And maybe I misread your original response to me, but it bordered on being vitriolic. I still don't understand how you got from me not liking the automatic assumption of society's gay stereotype to me not liking gay people who may adhere to it.

    Posted by: Alexx | Dec 18, 2012 7:59:28 PM


  10. what specific stereotype that what aspect of society has of us?

    i don't know, dude. I've been openly gay since i was in high school. I don't have this insecure fear-response that you're still crippled by.

    You do realize you're now moving goalposts, eh? you're going from one meaningless buzz-term to the next.

    It's clear from your post that you interact with incredibly unintelligent straight people. I don't have that particular problem, as the straight people in my life are pretty darn intelligent and thus would never say the stuff you've claimed that they've said.

    But still, my point remains - stop being such a wuss about it. Stop caring. I'd go so far as to call your bluff and say none of it's ever happened, too. Makes no sense.

    Being gay isn't "the only thing about" ANY gay people. not one. Yuo're not unique for being "gay but there's more to me than being gay" - that;s literally every gay person. Every single one. Everywhere.

    Others, however, have left worries about perception behind.

    Which character from Queer as Folk? my family loved that show. i was in season three. ;-)
    but which character? the successful ad exec? heaven forbid people think you have a sucessful career, eh? or Emmett? really sweet and beloved by everyone he meets? i'm sure you'd hate for everyone to think that you're as likable as Emmett.

    Yes. Lisps! Fashion! I get it - you live surrounded by straight people whose idea of "gay" is about as insightful as an octogenarian in the 1970s.

    it makes no sense to have "an issue with the stereotype" - what's worth noting is that the stereotypes you take issue with are the ones that (drumroll please.....) are spouted by ignorant anti-gay straight people as justification to mock gay men.

    you're in dire need of a pair of testicles.

    you don't hate the over-generalization - you fear being associated with "the types of gays" that by your own admittance, are the types that the straight people (who clearly aren't very bright) in your own life judge critically.

    and claiming not to "value promiscuity" because you, uh, "value trust and honesty too much" proves you're not a therapist. you'd fail first year university with a comment like that. wanna try again with another alias and invent another fake profession?

    you can't use "promiscuity" as a pejorative and then suggest up "trust and honesty" as being mutually-exclusive from an active sex life.

    so, yes. you revealed yourself to be a lying troll. thanks for playing!

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 18, 2012 8:14:08 PM


  11. @ Littlekiwi

    Wow. I haven't lied in a single of my responses. I've commented and then responded honestly. Maybe I'm not as smart as you or as versed in arguing, but I'm not a troll. I probably should have elaborated and said I meant when in a committed relationship.

    I digress. Despite this little debate, which it seems like I lost because I just don't have the knowledge, experience, or skill that you do: I get the impression you're the troll.

    You come off as rude and condescending. You're downright hostile to people's comments, which may not even be aimed at you, and you're very patronizing in most of your responses (to me at least, which may have been warranted because I had to look up what strawman meant and see if I actually did it, and I don;t think I did, which is why I responded to specific quotes in my response). I guess can;t really said I digressed.

    Anyway, I'm going to admit defeat because your aggression in your responses is something I can't match (either that or its sarcasm and even then I doubt it) and maybe you're just more experienced and knowledgeable about being gay, but I'm still going to be who I am despite what you or social stereotypes assume I should be.

    At least one of us had fun during this discourse.

    Posted by: Alexx | Dec 18, 2012 8:33:37 PM


  12. @ Caliban

    ""To Mark and others I would ask, "If you were straight, do you think you could go to a NASCAR race, a gun show, or a model airplane meeting and meet some life-long friends?" (Maybe you could- I don't know what your interests are.) But if not, WHY not? Most of those people are straight and in this scenario so are you, so doesn't that mean you'd all get along, make lots of friends?""

    Not trying to judge anyone. I appoligize if I said something offensive. I came out about a year ago so I'm still learning. Interesting, some of my friendships with my straight friends aren't as good as they were before. One friend still can't get over "it". At first he was ok. but then I had back away. I always listened to him talk about his girlfriends. Fine. He's a friend and I was being supportive. Not a problem until I decided to try a "balanced" conversation and mentioned boys. Big mistake. Everything stopped. He made a point of saying two guys kissing made him sick. I was stupid.

    I've never been to NAASCAR or gun shows etc, but I've always had straight friends. They just didn't know I wasn't straight. I didn't mean to put on an act but at the time I didn't know what else to do.

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 18, 2012 8:41:00 PM


  13. Alexx, nobody has told you who to be, except for the straight people whom you seem to listen to more than you gay brothers and sisters. so the day you stop pretending they have, well, that's the day you can start to attempt an authentic life.

    And you do need to look up the meaning of "strawman" because that's exactly what you did - you invented an argument that nobody made, claimed they made, claimed it attacked you, and then got defensive.

    And you're a therapist. Dude - that's a sign of insanity.

    nobody is telling you what or who to be - you're telling that to yourself. cuckoo. cuckoo. cuckoo.

    Mark, you're gonna be fine. JUST fine. take it day by day. build your support network of friends, make new gay buddies, take it slow, and remember that you'll be gay until the day you die - so the time is now to learn to become comfortable with it, proud of it, and empowered by it. it makes for a much happier life, trust that ;-)

    check out some of the biographies and documentaries about the LGBT Movement - it'll give you more hope and inspiration and passion to be just who you are than you can possibly imagine.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 18, 2012 8:47:02 PM


  14. @Alexx, I think you took away from Kiwi's original comment the opposite of what he meant.

    Even if you think society (or Kiwi) is trying to force you to be some stereotype you don't want to be, who says you have to buy into it? And are you sure that society is really expecting you to be some cartoon Queer as Folk compilation, or are you imposing that stereotype on yourself and on others? Perhaps unintentionally, you seem to be laying the stereotypes you fault society for having right back onto gay people.

    Anyone who knows you for more than 5 minutes shouldn't expect you to be any other gay person than the one you happen to naturally be. And if they truly have expectations about how you should talk/dress/act and about how promiscuous you should be, then it only speaks to their dimwittedness. What comes through in your comment, however, is that you're weighing yourself down with the very expectations you're blaming others for having.

    If you live your life how you want to live it for long enough, no one you care about will expect anything different. Then whatever society thinks of us is both out of our control and kind of irrelevant.

    Posted by: Ernie | Dec 18, 2012 8:48:13 PM


  15. @Alexx, I understand your frustration with stereotypes.

    In fact I think some of my cultural likes and dislikes were defined by my reaction AGAINST stereotypes. Initially at least, my dislike of Barbra Streisand was because I felt I was *supposed* to like her because I'm gay. (I still don't like her as a singer but now it's just because that style of music isn't my thing.) That went for a lot of things.

    But eventually you have to ask yourself if you're limiting yourself because you're worried what other people might think. Even if you're reacting AGAINST stereotypes you're still letting them define you.

    Here's the thing that really confounds me about modern gay identity and "society's" opinion of it. Who asked them? Newt Gingrich (just for example) didn't come to MY door asking my opinion about cheating on all his wives and get married 3 times, so why the f*ck am I supposed to care what HE thinks about me or gay people? You really don't get that much input into the lives of others, so why let their their opinions influence yours?

    This is your life and you only get one so you might as well live it.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 18, 2012 8:49:44 PM


  16. to Caliban's point, (and to reference an infamous video on Towleroad) i was the opposite - i intentionally AVOIDED Barbra Streisand for more than 25 years. Because I didn't want to be associated with those "stereotypical gays that like barbra streisand" - you know. those barbra gays that get made fun of. and are annoying.

    longstoryshort - mum shows me Yentl, i lose my s**t, and it turns out that i'm a total Barbra-lover, and didn't want to be, because it's seen as a "stereotype" - even though it's one that i not only fit, but LOVE.

    ". Even if you're reacting AGAINST stereotypes you're still letting them define you.""

    more wisdom from Caliban. highlight those words. they're a rock solid truth.

    see also: no masculine gay men ever write "no fems" on a profile. Masculine men don't live in fear of being associated with, nor in the company of, "fems". that's the domain of the insecure homosexual.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 18, 2012 8:56:16 PM


  17. Mark, I was absolutely NOT criticizing you. It seemed that this conversation was freaking you out a bit, making you pessimistic or something, and I was actually trying to relieve that.

    My main point was that, straight or gay, there are people in the world you aren't going to like. You won't like them or they won't like you. You have to find the people you DO like and who like you too and treat you well. That isn't specific to being gay. The best thing you can do is be who you ARE and pick up those who like the real you along the way. If you put on an act not matter how many people love you you'll always wonder if they love you or the act.

    You didn't say anything offensive, so don't worry about that. You may lose some friends because you've come out. But if you do they weren't really friends. You'll make more and better friends. Just for the record, you've had a lot of time to think about this before you came out but they've just had a short amount of time. Some of them may come around.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 18, 2012 9:04:48 PM


  18. Caliban, yeah it was freaking me out a bit. Its intimidating.

    The "act" was a protection reflex I kind of developed in high school to avoid dealing with the a**holes. I learned quickly it was better to keep certain things to myself. I don't know why it even worked. Once started though it was hard to undo.

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 18, 2012 9:36:18 PM


  19. it wasn't intentional at all. I guess I felt "relieved" at the time that people thought of me "straight". It was dumb.

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 18, 2012 9:50:29 PM


  20. I also didn't want to lose any friends so I didn't do anything to change anyones perceptions.

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 18, 2012 10:27:26 PM


  21. @ TADPOLICUS WEX

    Hmm, a short fused nerd/geek? Who would've thunk?

    U mean, if u don't subscribe to the whole ghetto cultcha, it must be homophobia and self loathing, is it? Yikes!

    Misogyny if not worshiping every tattered diva there is, u mean?
    With the competent artists and entertainers like Babs, Cher and Bette whom I just adore, sorry , bro, if I don't need Brit's (Bare) Bush (and not much else.... ouch!) or a "con 'artist' w/ the longevity called Madonna!

    Good luck next time in your clenched-fisted march of monomania!

    Posted by: iban4yesu | Dec 18, 2012 10:39:46 PM


  22. @ TADPOLICUS WEX

    Hmm, a short fused nerd/geek? Who would've thunk?

    U mean, if u don't subscribe to the whole ghetto cultcha, it must be homophobia and self loathing, is it? Yikes!

    Misogyny if not worshiping every tattered diva there is, u mean?
    With the competent artists and entertainers like Babs, Cher and Bette whom I just adore, sorry , bro, if I don't need Brit's (Bare) Bush (and not much else.... ouch!) or a "con 'artist' w/ the longevity called Madonna!

    Good luck next time in your clenched-fisted march of monomania!

    Posted by: iban4yesu | Dec 18, 2012 10:39:58 PM


  23. My opinion is..........the entire post-gay mentality is, for the most part, skewed, and it's an attack on the community. And a rejection of the community. Not everyone falls in this category. But it very much is "I'm not one of them, I don't identify with the GAY community. I'm into men but I'm not gay".

    What is happening is simple. People are trying not to fall in line with the stereotype. The stereotype that society has presented. And the "ghettoization" of the gay community. They think of themselves as free. But you're really not free if you feel the need to go out of your way to not associate with the people who, at the end of the day, are the ones most likely have your back. And it is this whole desire to conform and yet not conform at the same time.

    It's pretentious. I don't like it. I don't care enough to be that upset by it, but some GAY men are very delusional about our place in society. As soon as we gain some acceptance you're ready to jump ship.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 18, 2012 10:55:55 PM


  24. If you allow "stereotypes" to mold who you are as a person, then you are not as accepting of yourself as you think you are. Kiwi says this often, and then some of you get defensive when he says it. Everything he said is right. It is completely fake, and it is pretentious. You care all about perceptions, you allow yourselves to fall for hate that is slung against our community, that we're so vapid, we're so slutty, we're just a cultural phenomenon, we are immoral. You fall for the lies, you're as bad as the liar.

    And the deal is........if you don't identify with what you THINK gay culture is, that's one thing. But no, actually, you need to tear down gay culture and gay people. And the gay identity. You tear it down. And in doing so, you tear down everyone fighting for your place, and everyone who has fought for your place, at the dinner table in society. We're just starting to make it, and sorry, but all of you "I don't identify with gay" types are NOT DOING A DAMN THING to push acceptance. I'm not talking about those who identify as queer, I'm talking about those who go out of their way to essentially disassociate themselves with their orientation.

    Caliban put it perfectly, when you go out of your way to disassociate yourself with everything gay, you're only limiting yourself. It's so self-defeatist. And BTW, by saying "I don't identify with gay stereotypes"...............what is exactly wrong with being fem? What is wrong with enjoying sex? What is wrong with being single? What is wrong with liking theater? What is wrong with not being sporty?

    Get real. You have fallen for the lies, and the hate, and you are damaged, if you have this type of attitudes.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 18, 2012 11:07:02 PM


  25. Mark : Don't listen to all these goofballs (who don't know their asses from their elbows). They all have their own agendas. Just enjoy what YOU like. And know that homos in history have been Plato and Pindar and Alexander and Hans Christian Anderson and.....Don't let these modern Gays try to tell you anything at all about what and who you're SUPPOSED to like. That's all you gotta know. But don't totally reject everything "stereotypically gay" either, if you happen to find you like it, because that would be stupid too. (And, yeah....safe sex).

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 18, 2012 11:10:16 PM


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