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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. A fan of Nater here, but I'm a youngish (30), more masculine than feminine gay guy, I do understand the our community is a diverse community. And I couldn't be as out and proud as I am if it wasn't for the "gayest of the gay" of my sisters and brothers out there. THANK YOU!

    Posted by: Billy | Dec 18, 2012 11:18:04 PM

  2. What are the "gayest of the gay" ?

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 18, 2012 11:19:57 PM

  3. I find it amusing that so many people don't believe they are part of gay culture, and yet they are reading and commenting on a blog with "homosexual tendencies," a blog which celebrates all the different gay subcultures.

    And to those people who think being gay equals going to bars, get real. Some gay people hang out at bars, some hang out at home, some go hiking, some go on drag cruises. We are all vastly different people who are drawn together because we are gay.

    Posted by: homer | Dec 19, 2012 12:02:38 AM

  4. Homer : Reading and commenting on a blog doesn't dictate ones identity either, though. This blog has also enabled posters to terrorize those falsely accused of anti-gay hate crimes (by giving out their contact info.) and I'm sure not a criminal like them.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 19, 2012 12:18:16 AM

  5. Do you really need to ask, Yupp?

    Let me give you a little history lesson.

    We know that homosexuality has existed throughout human history. Even if there weren't the somewhat accepting bits and the occasional heroic mythology we'd still have the laws and "shove a red-hot poker up his @ss" bits to remind us. So thank your stars you were born when you were.

    The modern gay rights movement came about because of...war. Perhaps you've heard of the WWI song, "How Are You Going To Keep Them Down On The Farm Once They've Seen Paree"? Yeah, well f*ck Paris, because the real issue is that never before had men from the sticks been thrust together in such a number and discovered that some of them would rather be with each other. Many didn't know there were others like them until then.

    It's no accident that the two centers of gay culture in the US, New York and San Francisco, were ALSO where military people were dropped off. Instead of going home to Bumfucke Egypt they stayed there and formed what is now the gay community. Don't sneer because if it weren't for them many of us would have done what had always been done before, marry a woman and pumped out kids who wondered why their fathers were so remote and resentful. It took the real "f*ggots" to stand their grounds and fight for their rights.

    More than any one thing, WWII created the gay community. The first gay rights protests in this country were about soldiers being denied benefits only AFTER they had served.

    So pardon me if I'm not impressed by how hard you have it because you're SO oppressed because how masculine and un-stereotypical you are. Well cry me a f*cking river.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 19, 2012 12:31:24 AM

  6. Caliban : I agree, greatly, about WWII. Otherwise, what the f--k are you talking about ? When did I say I'm oppressed ? Or masculine ?

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 19, 2012 12:36:04 AM

  7. P.S. The rotten out-of-towner gay in NYC I'm talking about didn't arrive til the 1970's and '80's.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 19, 2012 12:38:08 AM

  8. That farm song, incidentally, was aout WWI.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 19, 2012 12:39:27 AM

  9. I'm reading Nate silvers new book now

    It's great reading

    He's very self deprecating and intelligent

    He's a man of worthy insights

    Posted by: Chuck | Dec 19, 2012 12:44:29 AM

  10. I'm reading Nate silvers new book now

    It's great reading

    He's very self deprecating and intelligent

    He's a man of worthy insights

    Posted by: Chuck | Dec 19, 2012 12:44:31 AM

  11. Yupp, I apologize. I went back and read your what you wrote and I shouldn't have been that harsh.

    You asked "What is the gayest of the gay?" and I'd have to answer "those who fought for their [our] rights when winning was impossible." If you have their kind of guts then by all means step right up.

    "That farm song, incidentally, was aout WWI."

    Yeah, I know. That's why I said "Perhaps you've heard of the WWI (<-please note) song, "How Are You Going To Keep Them Down On The Farm Once They've Seen Paree"?"

    The people who first stood up for gay rights in the US faced insurmountable odds just not to get arrested for "congregating" yet some of them lived to get married in the states where they lived. Many of them were "stereotypical" but I don't know that I have the kind of bravery they did. What I DO know is that I didn't have to fight as hard because they laid the groundwork.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 19, 2012 1:15:37 AM

  12. I see you DID say that song was from WWI. I was mistaken, I apologize.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 19, 2012 1:22:42 AM

  13. Incidentally, I just asked what he considered the gayest of the gay out of curiosity. Because, even in that category, there are variations and different types. Some will say it's the ascot-wearing hairdresser type, and others the silly exhuberant Rip Taylor type. I'm really just wondering what others think of, now.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 19, 2012 1:26:21 AM

  14. sounds like a very intellectual way of saying "straight acting."

    Posted by: seito | Dec 19, 2012 1:27:38 AM

  15. I'm curious. Please don't get mad at me but until last year I never even heard of Stonewall. I don't know if asking this is a good idea...... can anyone recommend reading, something basic. I can't ever have the same appreciation but I don't want to be ignorant either.

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 19, 2012 1:30:26 AM

  16. Mark : For goodness' sake, just google it and find a book on the subject.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 19, 2012 1:32:11 AM

  17. Mark : Get The Gay Book Of Lists (by Leigh W. Rutledge) instead. It's a very fun book. Makes history fun. And it will take you all throughout history, from ancient times to the present, rather than just containing you to the Stonewall story.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 19, 2012 1:35:27 AM

  18. Yupp, your suggestion is appreciated. Thank you.

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 19, 2012 1:42:55 AM

  19. Mark, there are many sources for that. There is a book by Martin Duberman for instance.

    Or you could just look it up online.

    Please don't feel that you have to defer to anyone or that they might get mad at you if you ask questions.

    It's great that you're interested in the history. It's a good thing to know and understand.

    But first find people you like and who will treat you well, people who support you. You'll be OK. Just have some patience with yourself and others.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 19, 2012 1:57:53 AM

  20. Mark : You're welcome. Caliban's recommendation is probably a good one too. (But DO get The Gay Book Of Lists if you can).

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 19, 2012 2:16:40 AM

  21. LIke the comment about Keith Haring being an American Artist. We are always putting people in categories, Black-wirter, Latino-actor, Gay-wirtier... We will break down prejudice further once we are identified as American. Prejudice won't ever go away completely, however segmenting people doesn't help.

    Posted by: Christopher | Dec 19, 2012 6:18:22 AM

  22. What he is forgetting about Haring being publicly labeled a "gay artist", is that it was a time when visibility about being gay was very important, and not many people were out. Nate is able to say he doesn't want to be identified as gay first, writer second, because people like Haring did. They paved the way for the liberation Nate feels and seeks. It's not a big deal now, it was then.

    Posted by: kodiak | Dec 19, 2012 7:55:57 AM

  23. Bravo Nate for being your own person but clinging to any notion of straight equates to hanging on to straight dollars. If you like it I love it.

    Posted by: DC Arnold | Dec 19, 2012 8:18:55 AM

  24. You can't define a sociological community as characterized by its diversity--it just doesn't work with the definition. Culturally in the U.S. and in many neighborhoods and cities across this country there *is* a gay community. A community is defined by shared characteristics, and these determine membership. You can lack some traits, but if you lack enough then you're no longer fully "in" that community. If you surveyed 1000 gay men and asked what those characteristics are, you'd get some surprisingly similar responses. It's why we have dialogues about the absence of representation among the gay community of those who are non-White, poor, faithful, rural, old, etc. It's not because everyone is a bunch of paranoid or self-hating "quitters" who went to the bar a few time, saw some negative stereotypes fulfilled, and got scared. These are dialogues engaged in by people who have often had decades long lived experiences of being gay.

    If you're going to keep throwing around this false notion that you must be a "self-actualized gay" then that means that "gay" is defined as something, and something clearly more than just "homosexual." And at least in the 18 years I've been actively around/in the gay community in the various places I've lived, I've seen the word "gay" overwhelmingly defined as "not straight" and with primacy given to the dimension of sexuality. Usually it's about breaking out of the constraints of monogamy, inhibition, enforced sexual morality, cultural Puritanism, patriarchy, etc. Thus, a "gay" artist is one whose work is, necessarily, explicitly about confronting the mainstream of sex or sexuality. So is the homosexual painter who does only landscapes a "gay artist"? If someone did art exactly like Keith Haring's but was heterosexual, would he or she be a "gay artist"? And certainly we might then be left wondering: what does it mean to be a "gay" statistician, or a "gay" anything?

    When Nate Silver identifies his sexuality with some reference to what it means to be straight, it's not because he's trapped in some immature paradigm that still longs for acceptance for his "not quite gay"ness. It's because the "gay community" itself and the word "gay" have been defined overwhelmingly in opposition to the "straight community" and being "straight." If we forget that, then it seems to me we're forgetting a core part of our radical history.

    Posted by: Stefan | Dec 19, 2012 10:22:33 AM

  25. I agree w/ D in ATL. What does Silver mean by "sexually gay" but "ethinically straight"? can anyone enlighten me?

    Posted by: Rick Moore | Dec 19, 2012 1:28:02 PM

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