Nate Silver | News

Nate Silver Questioned About Gay Identity on Reddit


As I mentioned on Monday, Nate Silver did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) interview on Reddit yesterday.

SilverReddit user snsiegel asked Silver:

In a recent profile, you stated you wished not to be known as a "gay statistician" but as a statistician who happens to be gay. Isn't that a bit naive in today's political and social climate? Don’t you think that whether you like it or not, people will treat you differently because you are gay and that your identity as a gay man cannot be limited to your private sexuality? As someone so ubiquitous now in the public sphere, should you be addressing issues in your writing that are related to gay rights as much as baseball?

Replied Silver:

It's a complicated issue that maybe doesn't lend itself so well to the reddit treatment.

My quick-and-dirty view is that people are too quick to affiliate themselves with identity groups of all kinds, as opposed to carving out their own path in life.

Obviously, there is also the issue of how one is perceived by others. Living in New York in 2013 provides one with much a much greater ability to exercise his independence than living in Uganda — or for that matter living in New York forty years ago. So perhaps there's a bit of a "you didn't build that" quality in terms of taking for granted some of the freedoms that I have now.

And/but/also, one of the broader lessons in the history of how gay people have been treated is that perhaps we should empower people to make their own choices and live their own lives, and that we should be somewhat distrustful about the whims and tastes and legal constraints imposed by society.

There were many more questions. You can read them on Reddit, or as a transcript in the NYT.

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  1. Love this guy.

    Posted by: Lars | Jan 9, 2013 10:14:47 AM

  2. Good for Nate. I hope this shuts up the people who want him to identify himself as "Nate Silver, Gay Statistician" every time he introduces himself or to have it engraved on his tombstone.

    Posted by: KT | Jan 9, 2013 10:21:31 AM

  3. Wow! Based on this response I gotta say: he one very smart man. I am impressed.

    Posted by: Alex Parrish | Jan 9, 2013 10:30:39 AM

  4. I may be in the minority here, but I find his desire not to identify as a gay man offensive. Why is he so willing to identify as a statistician, but not gay? Openly and proudly stating that you are gay is the single best act of activism any gay person can do. It opens the closet and exposes the truth. In this day and age, our history isn't taught and our true heros are hidden by placing the words "may have been" in front of their sexuality. The least we can do now a days is have those of us who have profited from the work and pains of our past generations by standing up proudly and being an example of our community.

    Posted by: Nick | Jan 9, 2013 10:32:53 AM

  5. His response is great and I think indicative of how future gay generations will see themselves. I'm 50 and very aware of all the battles we have had to wage to get where we are today but I don't begrudge the younger gays taking advantage of them either. I think of it this way: I'm not a "gay pie" made up of different ingredients, I'm a "pie" made up of ingredients and gay just happens to be one of them. Isn't the end game that ALL people are treated equally under the law?

    Posted by: RONTEX | Jan 9, 2013 10:47:26 AM

  6. Nick, Nate is perfectly willing to identify as a gay man. He was interviewed by Out this year as person of the year and was photographed for the Out100 in 2010 (which makes all the hubbub over his sexuality now a little out of left field). He just doesn't always want to have to identify as "Nate Silver, gay statistician" in every interview or profile he does.

    I can understand. I am gay and proud of it but I don't introduce myself as "I'm KT and I'm gay" to every person I meet. I don't want to be known just for my sexuality. I think a lot of people feel this way; their sexuality is important but not the only thing that matters.

    Posted by: KT | Jan 9, 2013 10:47:35 AM

  7. I think his response was thoughtful but I kind of agree with Nick. Mentioning that you are gay or speaking about your personal life in order to break stereotypes is needed. Most people are not able to do that because of the impact it might have on their career or personal safety. I don't think that Nate has to deal with the negative aspects of his sexuality affecting his career or personal safety so he should speak up and be proud of his sexuality if only to show the world the diversity that exists within the gay community.

    Posted by: Isaac | Jan 9, 2013 10:50:14 AM

  8. Agree or disagree with some of his points (and I'm not in 100% agreement), the man is smart and worthy of the time it takes to read his comments (Hi, Azaleia banks!) and for FSM's sake, I am so very very tired of teh DUMB.

    Posted by: Name2 | Jan 9, 2013 10:54:57 AM

  9. @Nick, you can be gay and not "identify" as a gay man in the way that everything that you live for relates to that. There is a lot more to my life than who I go to bed with, and frankly, it's insulting to everything ELSE I've done with my life that you expect me to add that asterisk to it.

    Posted by: J Y | Jan 9, 2013 11:19:47 AM

  10. " Why is he so willing to identify as a statistician, but not gay?"

    He did identify as gay. Which he was under no obligation to do, though it was nice. He has no other obligation to the gay community, other than to not campaign against gay rights.

    Posted by: Nat | Jan 9, 2013 11:36:32 AM

  11. Nick, he does identify as a gay man, but doesn't think everything he is needs to be identified as "Gay X" (gay new yorker, gay statistician, gay blogger etc). Being gay isn't the only thing that defines people. His response talks about carving our own path in life. Often, after coming out, gay people feel like they need to be the "stereotypical" gay (go watch musicals, listen to lady gaga, love barbara streisand) and they do it to an extreme. The media also does this in their portrayal of gays. Thankfully, most people outgrow that after a while and normalize to become individuals.

    Posted by: Tek | Jan 9, 2013 11:42:15 AM

  12. It's actually not that complicated an issue.

    The only gay men I've ever met who used this whole "I'm not defined by being gay!" thing are men who are still apologizing for being gay.

    newsflash - the only people "defined by their sexuality" are the ones who can't shut up about how "not defined by their sexuality" they are. Ya are, blanche. Ya ARE defined by it - specifically, defined by a fear of others defining you by it.

    When you're actually comfortable and secure in having a gay identity you no longer make asinine comments about how "there are things about me other than my being gay". Why? because you actually believe that statement, and thus don't need to SAY it, or downplay, censor, edit, or compartmentalize your sexuality or identity.

    i don't get this "there's more to me than whom i bed" apologetic idiocy.

    there's also more to being gay than buttsecks, ya idiots.

    ugh. some people are so far behind that they think they're first...

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jan 9, 2013 11:44:25 AM

  13. I think that nowadays one should identify as gays, only because it will help to advance the cause of being accepted by the straight world. The more of us they see, the better. Perhaps in the future it will not matter, but we're not there yet.

    Posted by: Jack M | Jan 9, 2013 11:46:23 AM

  14. actually, Tek, when many people come out they feel a terrified need to "NOT BE *STEREOTYPICAL*" - which is stupid, using stereotypical as a pejorative.

    note how your choices of "stereotypical" are, frankly, the stupidest and most benign things ever. OMG! HE came out and now he likes musicals and barbra streisand and lady gaga!"

    OH come on, Mary. don't be such a ninny.

    when you post things like that you only prove everyone else whose balls have dropped to be right - your fear of a gay identity hinges entirely on the fact that you're still caring WAYYYYY too much about how bigoted and ignorant Straight People see you as a gay man.

    note to all of you who continue to resist having a visible and known Gay Identity - man UP already, and stop living like a cowardly boy, who's always looking over his shoulder worrying what The Straights are saying about you.


    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jan 9, 2013 11:51:45 AM

  15. @Nick, your offense to his statements are a result of your own desire to be offended. He has not made a claim that he doesn't want to be gay, he doesn't want to hide the fact that he is gay, nor does he say that he isn't proud of who he is.

    I believe the point he is trying to make is that being gay has nothing to do with his ability to wow people with his statistics abilities, so why the need to mention it? Why be introduced by your sexuality any more than you should be introduced by how much money you make?

    Posted by: Eddie | Jan 9, 2013 11:54:02 AM

  16. Internalized homophobia is such a drag.

    Posted by: MARCUS BACHMANN | Jan 9, 2013 11:59:35 AM

  17. @Issac: "Mentioning that you are gay or speaking about your personal life in order to break stereotypes is needed."

    Exactly! And this is PRECISELY what he does!

    To my ears, Nate sounds like he's trying to unreservedly project the balance of traits that exist within him -- in other words, he's trying to be true to himself. I think that's great. I think everyone should do it. Now, I'm sure for him, as it is for all of us, this is a process that isn't yet complete, and that, day to day, it isn't always obvious the right thing to do in each situation. Nonetheless he seems to be holding to this path and I commend him for it.

    Posted by: JD | Jan 9, 2013 12:01:30 PM

  18. "I believe the point he is trying to make is that being gay has nothing to do with his ability to wow people with his statistics abilities, so why the need to mention it? "

    Exactly. It's bizarre, to say the least, to tie a professional identity to a personal one. It's not about being free to talk about one's personal life in a work setting - that's an important, but distinct issue. But to weld professional abilities to the personal life is unseemly in almost every profession for gay, straight, or bisexual individuals.

    Posted by: Nat | Jan 9, 2013 12:06:47 PM

  19. I've never met a straight person who spent as much time distancing themselves from their Straightness, in professional circles and with *personal* reasons, as I've seen gay people do it.

    If you believe that being Gay is "just a part of you, and not the whole" then you'd be Gay Identified. Why? Because you'd know, and believe, that there's more to you than that identity. Distancing only shows that you're not quite as comfy with it as you'd like others to believe.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jan 9, 2013 12:15:46 PM

  20. Just proves the rule that you can be smart in some ways or even many ways and still dumb in others.

    "You didn't build that" kind of nails it, though: he should read some gay history.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Jan 9, 2013 12:22:22 PM

  21. @KevininVT - aint it a pisser that the men who need to read "The Velvet Rage" the most never do?

    Stage 2, boys. Stage 2.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jan 9, 2013 12:32:32 PM

  22. Just another chorus of that old standard "Internalized Homophobia Your Magic Spell is Everywhere"

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 9, 2013 12:37:00 PM

  23. When it comes to references to one's profession/occupation and accomplishments or quality of work, there is nothing wrong with wishing to be generally identified as a statistician, musician, teacher, store manager, etc. rather than a "gay _____", a "woman ___", "African American ____", etc. Most of us want to be regarded for the quality of what we do and be in the company (figuratively speaking, if not literally) of all others in their profession. It is much more accurate to call Silver and brilliant statistician, not a brilliant gay statistician. The latter would be condescending. Joni Mitchell made a similar point when she complained about often being called one of the most significant female contributors to rock.

    And as others have pointed out, Silver has always been open about being gay. He's not trying to hide anything.

    Posted by: MichaelJ | Jan 9, 2013 12:47:45 PM

  24. I'm gay. Why would I want people to think that I'm straight, or (if you wanna play the "Magic Vocabulary Game") not know that I'm gay?

    I want them to know that I'm gay. That way they see that not only am I gay, but that there's "more to me than being gay" - if you refuse to be Out and Open about it then you dont' change a damned thing.

    There's no "there's more to me than being gay" when you flatly refuse to identify as gay.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jan 9, 2013 12:47:52 PM

  25. He's dreamy...

    Posted by: Michael Graye | Jan 9, 2013 1:00:36 PM

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