So, 538.com/NYT poll-crunching guru Nate Silver is gay.
I honestly just figured he was a straight geek, when I met him years ago. And I pride myself on my fine-tuned gaydar (that’d be you, Lindsey).
Some of you, I know, will ask, “why does it matter?”
It matters because it matters. When gay people still are having their civil rights voted on, like some high school popularity contest, and we often lose, then it matters who in famous-land is gay because it puts another face to the “gay menace” and makes it that much less menacing.
It’s long been held that people become more supportive of our civil rights if they know someone gay. And even if (or perhaps even better if) the person is a “celebrity” who you don’t know personally, but perhaps feel even more strongly about than someone you actually know – finding out they’re gay helps to soften any internal opposition you might have.
It also doesn’t hurt, when gay kids are killing themselves because they refuse to believe that it will ever get better, for those same kids to see adult role models who are happy, successful, well-loved and admired, and yes, gay.
So yeah, until it stops mattering that we’re gay, it matters that you’re gay.
Oh, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone come out so incidentally in my life (unless Nate came out earlier and none of us ever noticed).
Dean Chambers of UnSkewedPolls.com railed against his “voodoo statistics”, claimed he’d been “smoking the wacky weed” and finally pronounced him a “thin and effeminate” man “of small stature” with a “soft-sounding voice”.
There was more than a touch of homophobia to the criticism (Silver is gay), not to mention an aversion to scientific rationalism that has come to characterise certain segments of the conservative right. (Gawker compared the attack to “something like a jock slapping a math book out of a kid’s hands and saying, ‘NICE NUMBERS, FAG.'”)
It turns out that what he calls his “dorkiness” is actually the secret to his powers. “I’ve always felt like something of an outsider. I’ve always had friends, but I’ve always come from an outside point of view. I think that’s important. If you grow up gay, or in a household that’s agnostic, when most people are religious, then from the get-go, you are saying that there are things that the majority of society believes that I don’t believe.”
What made you more of a misfit, I ask, being gay or a geek? “Probably the numbers stuff since I had that from when I was six.”