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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. @Stefan, I appreciate your sociological view but I think it's a too-strict definition for something that is actually very diffuse and amorphous. For one thing I'd question that definition in light of the internet.

    "You can't define a sociological community as characterized by its diversity"

    Yeah, you can. Having sexual/emotional desire for those of the same gender is the one thing that unites us, and perhaps even then only because banding together to fight for our rights is politically convenient. You wouldn't say the same thing about the "straight community" so what makes you think you can apply it to gays?

    You can study a gay enclave, Montrose in Houston TX or West Hollywood, but that isn't going to tell you much about the gay community in Padukah Kentucky, Senegal, or China. The "gay flag" (like it or not) is a rainbow for a reason. We are part of every group. It encompasses a man who has never had sex out of fear but knows he's gay to the "pig sex" aficionado in Palm Springs.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 19, 2012 2:35:11 PM

  2. I guess this just seems disappointing to me. I'm a young gay man myself (24) and I used to say things like this... that I didn't fit into the "gay" paradigm and that a lot of people saw me as "straight."

    But then I made friends. Ventured out doors. Had friends that were of all types. And I guess what grates on me the most is that this does seem like a homophobic comment. I don't care to want to be "straight", I want to be me. I want to be intelligent, brave, hardworking, and friendly- and gay. I don't need people to see me as close to "straight" (whatever that means). When someone says "ethnically straight" it just seems fearful of coming across as "one of those gays."

    Mr. Silver may be smart but I think he has a lot of growing up to do in terms of the identity department.

    I just wish people would start to realize that equality isn't about being just like everyone else, it's about accepting differences and being able to be your own individual.

    I wish we had more role models that were okay with their gayness... that they didn't have to be "ethnically straight" but could say, "oh I like men and I'm also a statistician" and leave it at that. Because you can be gay and be successful- he got that much right- but the moment you go into wanting to identify as straight... it just seems sad. You won't be straight, Nate, just as I'll never be Black.

    It strikes me as the same "color blindness" argument ignorant white people have. "Sexuality blindness" seems to be the next big thing.

    Posted by: Luke | Dec 19, 2012 5:49:06 PM

  3. And right now, I want to and in Iraq with the day los something, month came to our side. I wonder why she will come, because very few on active and I talk to, as long as the class is over, she must will run to the playground and crazy play, don't, because Iraq los? May I have a really bad feeling.

    Posted by: Brandon Bolden Jersey | Dec 19, 2012 8:12:00 PM

  4. "Ethnically Straight" = Straight Acting

    Nate is using the word "ethnic" as defined by belonging or relating to a particular group or culture.

    S0 DISAPPOINTING! The hard-on I had for him is he definitely gone now. I wonder what exact attributes is he able to find, separate, and assign as belonging to gay culture and as belonging to straight culture. How is it, on one hand he espouse the advantages he has reaped from being an outsider, while simultaneously viewing himself as an insider, culturally. To be fair, he said his friends view him this way, but I'm sure he agrees with their assessment.

    Also, I'm tired of people attacking ghost. Particularly the gay conformity ghost. Saying gay conformity is just as bad a straight conformity reeks of a suggestion that the two dogmas exert equal pressures, they don't. There exists a straight culture that exerts tremendous pressure concerning how and what a man should and shouldn't be. This comes from parents, peers, teachers, senators, presidents,and even gods. Where is gay conformity anywhere near as intense or systematic as straight conformity? Criticism of gay conformity is a guise for contempt for gays as a community.

    And Nate Silver's quip about the artist Keith Haring, soo telling of his ignorance. Smart people like Nate Silver are constant reminders of why social sciences are important.

    Posted by: anony6 | Dec 20, 2012 7:54:34 PM

  5. @ LUKE

    Exactly. I Couldn't agree more with your post.

    Posted by: anony6 | Dec 20, 2012 10:46:52 PM

  6. The biological history of sexuality is quite interesting.

    The reason why SO many black men have a big penis has to do with evolutionary reproductive arms race that occurred in Africa about 600,000 years ago.

    The bigger penis with the large head and wide urethra forced more sperm in faster, AND the big penis with the wide head could SUCK out more competitor male sperm from an already SEEDED female because it created a better vacuum.

    The shape of a mans glans or penis head and why he goes soft after orgasm has to do with sperm deposition.

    If women were monogamous in our prehistoric past a mans penis would not be shaped to SUCK out another mans sperm ! !

    Our ideas about sexuality should change with the practice. Unfortunately there is little coupling between the two...

    If it were not for these things male genitalia would be RATHER SMALL to protect it from damage. As the larger something is the more surface area it has to be attacked as a target.

    In a future 600,000 years from now will the penis of man become smaller because it no longer is advantageous, and thus revert?

    Proof of this evolutionary penile differentiation can be found in MANY different species of animal especially when doing a comparative analysis of male duck and hog genitals !

    Posted by: omar espinosa | Dec 20, 2012 11:32:37 PM

  7. We expect an artist's personal experiences and biases to inform his or her work. We expect a statistician's personal experiences and biases to be absent from his or her work. It's completely reasonable that Keith Haring is called a "gay American artist" and it's completely reasonable that Nate Silver can be called a statistician who happens to be gay -- because of the nature of their occupations. There's no conflict.

    Posted by: Joey Manley | Dec 23, 2012 11:26:05 AM

  8. I agree with Nate... and frankly I'm a little tired of gay media using the word gay to identify someone in the news. This is not new for me and I have been in the front line of the gay rights movement for 40+ years. I am against the Gay Victory Fund. The day they endorse a non-gay candidate running against a gay candidate because that person is better qualified... then I might change my mind.

    Being gay does not make an athlete, politician or hairdresser better. I recall when I received the wrath of the press and too many gays that were heterophobic back in the 1970s. I knew Harvey Milk as a friend,however I did not support him when he ran for Supervisor in 1977. Harvey was openly gay and Jewish like myself, however I believed that Terry Hallinan was better qualified. Terry who was Irish Catholic,married and a lawyer. He was a lifelong bay area resident who had lived in the 5th district for over a decade. He came from a very liberal family who had a history of fighting for the little guy. Terry was a Freedom Rider in the Civil Rights movement, and defended G.I.s who did not want to return to the Vietnam war. He was active for many years in the politics of the 5th district and City of S.F. Harvey was only in the Castro for four years. Grant you, once Harvey became Supervisor... he became a good politician. However, the movie Milk, made him look greater then he was by embellishing facts and depicting events that never happened.

    For myself, I always was an openly gay man. I have been involved in gay sports as well as sports promotion. It has never interfered with my friends and family. Last year I received the Hilda Award and in my bio listed that I was gay.

    The way I see it... when it's in the news... it should state your stats and then mention that person also happens to be gay.

    Posted by: jerry pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher | May 13, 2015 12:39:03 AM

  9. From this Irish-Czech-Dutch-American, I concur with the essence of what he is saying. We are people, not labels.

    I also have to say I agree with his perspective on the gay culture. The "We're here and Queer" walking down main street in thongs and leather, well, that shows there are variances in any culture. The most outrageous stand out as representative, but are not necessarily so.

    I think there are lots of gay people who just live normal lives and don't feel the need to parade down main street obnoxiously.

    Posted by: Kelli Lines | May 26, 2015 5:15:35 PM

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