'Sexually Gay But Ethnically Straight': Nate Silver (Almost) Gets It Right Again

Out has named Nate Silver its Person of the Year, and the resulting profile by editor Aaron Hicklin is an endearing portrait of a dude who is doing well at life by being so right all the time. There's great stuff about the making of the man and his dealings with those who try to undo him. He says flattering things about Nick Denton ("He's willing to be kind of destructive and path-breaking, and to challenge the status quo; in some ways, it's kind of more my style"); Denton barely returns the favor ("He's not necessarily the best statistician, but he might be the best stats geek who can also write—and perform on television. His steadiness under pundit fire before the election was something to witness."). Heh.

But with Out being a gay magazine, and Silver being a gay man, his sexuality is discussed at length, and he summarizes the position of being a human within a group extremely sharply. Here's that section of the piece:

"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."

That's almost perfect, the embrace of difference, the wariness of all sides of conformity, the emphasis on individuality (an essential component of queerness), the way that he frames the most potentially controversial (but vivid) part of his statement (he's "kind of" sexually gay but ethnically straight "to [his] friends").

However, if he were less ethnically straight, he'd probably realize that Haring was a decidedly gay artist for not just his sexuality, but the content of his work and the simple activism in being a publicly out man at a virulently anti-gay time in American history.

Silver's wish of being evaluated for his merit and not personal life is reasonable and plausible — it wouldn't be either without great gay men like Haring who paved the way.

[Out]

[Photo via AP]