OUT magazine’s Aaron Hicklin writes an excellent profile of liberal numbers guru Nate Silver, who has just been named OUT’s “Person of the Year.”
Hicklin notes that Nate’s contract with the NYT is up next summer, and it will be interesting to see if Nate continues with the Times, or whether he decides to go out on his own.
As I’d noted in a previous piece, Nate Silver is gay – I had no idea until just a few weeks ago. Apparently he’s been out a while, and the story gets into some of his thoughts on that, including his desire not to be branded as a “gay statistician.” And that’s fair. It always annoyed when me when every time the media wanted to quote me they wanted to call me a “gay activist.” I felt as if the monicker was somehow limiting. It suggested that my expertise was that I’m angry (and sure, I can be), rather than the fact that my expertise on the issues also comes from my education and work experience too. (I also found that it tended to get me TV gigs speaking about gay topics but no other political topics – again, it was limiting.)
I do, however, feel that – in contrast to what Nate says in the story – it is important that we acknowledge gay activists and gay statisticians. It matters, as I wrote earlier, because it matters:
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 long as people discriminate against us because we are gay, it will matter that we are gay. And coming out publicly, and acknowledging that we are gay publicly, is part of the necessary process of putting an end to anti-gay discrimination. Yeah, it shouldn’t matter that we’re gay, but it does matter that we’re gay, until it no longer does.
I’ll give you the first two grafs, then you can go read the rest of the Nate Silver profile on OUT:
Nate Silver wants to know if I’ve seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the much-praised documentary about Japanese sushi legend Jiro Ono. “It’s about this guy in Japan who makes the best sushi, probably in the world, and you’re, like, What’s the secret?” Silver says. “And the secret is dedication to every little aspect, from the rice to the fish to the way the customers are seated to the order in which the meal is presented.” He pauses. “Just dedication to every little aspect of every little thing.”
We are in a small restaurant in Brooklyn one Sunday shortly after the election that returned Barack Obama to the White House, and Silver is enjoying the rare prospect of an afternoon watching college football and drinking beer with his friends. “I can’t believe it’s a Sunday when I actually go and do nothing and not feel guilty about it,” he says as a waiter takes his order for a Michelle, a cocktail involving jalapeño-infused tequila, beer, lime, and tomato juice (Silver liked it so much, he had two of them).
Silver’s admiration for Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a movie about attention to detail, is of course exactly the kind of metaphor a writer hopes for—an almost too-perfect reveal of Silver’s psychology. Fish or numbers, it all comes down to an obsession with method and perfectionism.