Nate Silver is gay, in case you didn’t know. Until yesterday, practically no one did. Silver is the incredibly accurate statistician who gave President Obama a 91.6% probability of winning re-election on Election Day, and gave right wing pundits and prognosticators such angst for the months leading up to the election they created an entire new system of poll reading — that, like most everything the right does, was totally wrong.
Silver, author of the bestselling book, The Signal and the Noise, has not been totally wrong. In fact, he’s been almost totally right. Silver’s statistical model ultimately predicted President Obama would win the White House with an a weighted probability average of about 315 electoral votes — with 332 the most likely scenario — and 50.9% of the popular vote. Obama won 332 electoral college votes and 50.6% of the popular vote. Perhaps more important, Silver’s model predicted the vote correctly in all 50 states. In 2008, Silver correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states and all 36 Senate races.
“I’ve always felt like something of an outsider,” Nate Silver tells Carole Cadwalladr of The Observer, a liberal British newspaper. “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.”
Cadwalladr, who in her extensive profile of the 34-year old superstar, published in the U.S. at The Raw Story, notes, “Silver is gay,” and writes:
“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.”
Silver’s blog, FiveThirtyEight, is published at The New York Times, but Silver is not a Times employee; instead, he licenses his award-winning blog to the Old Grey Lady.
Silver, a total nerd and geek in the best possible meaning of the words, was named by Time magazine one of The World’s 100 Most Influential People in 2009. Despite all this, Silver has had to bear his share of anti-gay attacks, even when most of the world didn’t know he was gay.
On October 25, when the right was in total freak-out mode over Silver having given President Obama a 71% chance of winning re-election, the right’s new wunderkind, Dean Chambers, aka Mr. Unskewed Polls, wrote:
Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the “Mr. New Castrati” voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound. Nate Silver, like most liberal and leftist celebrities and favorites, might be of average intelligence but is surely not the genius he’s made out to be.
Silver responded, indirectly, two days later, via Twitter:
Unskewedpolls argument: Nate Silver seems kinda gay + ??? = Romney landslide!examiner.com/article/the-fa…
— Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) October 27, 2012
Chambers later removed the graf and apologized, but not before Gawker, who noted Chambers’ numbers are “generated in the same way that a kid turns an F into an A by drawing an extra bar down the right side of it,” had some fun:
Nate Silver, the famed statistician behind the FiveThirtyEight election forecast blog at the New York Times, is wrong. And gay. At least according to the more virulent elements of right-wing media. That he’s wrong is only confirmed by his gayness, just as surely as his gayness is the source of his wrongness. Nate Silver is a tautology of being queer as hell about everything.
Hardcore conservatism’s loathing of science has lurked around GOP politics for so long that its easy to forget how nasty it is. Over 40 years, that disdain has slid from “pointy-headed intellectuals” to something very like a jock slapping a math book out of a kid’s hands and saying, “NICE NUMBERS, FAG.” But this is what you do when you can’t crunch the numbers yourself or when they will not save you. You shoot the messenger.
Don’t you get it? Nate Silver is wrong, because Nate Silver sounds like a goddamn queer.
So, why does it matter that Silver is gay?
Four years ago, when I began The New Civil Rights Movement, anyone’s coming out was viewed as big news. If an actor at the Oscars, Emmys, or even Tonys acknowledged their same-sex partner, or even commented on marriage equality, blogs lit up and Twitter cheered. Today, if we ran a similar story, it would be met with yawns.
Times have changed, and for the better.
But not necessarily for kids.
Kids need role models.
That geeky, nerdy gay fifth grader needs to know there are geeky, nerdy successful and respected adults. That nine-year old girl who knows she’s different from other girls, needs to know there are lesbians like her and one of them just became a U.S. Senator.
And the school yard bullies who beat the crap out of geeky, nerdy gay fifth graders need to know that the gay kids they’re beating up today may well grow up to be revered statisticians.
It doesn’t matter that Nate Silver is gay. It matters that people who don’t like or respect gay people — or who even hate gay people — people who think we’re immoral and a danger to society, know that Nate Silver is gay.
And that should help them start to change their perception.
It doesn’t matter that Nate Silver is gay. But it matters people know because there are lawmakers who want to ban same-sex marriage. And religious leaders and pundits who want to criminalize our relationships. And presidential candidates who want to take away our right to visit our loved ones in the hospital. And schoolyard bullies who cut gay boys’ hair — who grow up to be presidential candidates who want to take away our right to visit our loved ones in the hospital.
America is changing, because people know we’re not going away.
It doesn’t matter that Nate Silver is gay. It matters that America knows he is. And it matters that people know you are. Because when they know we’re here, they know that can’t hurt us anymore. They have lost the ability to stop us from marrying and raising families and serving in the military and in Congress and running businesses and living our lives.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to describe more accurately Silver’s statistical model prediction of the electoral college results.
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