By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
It’s that time of the year when we look back and reflect on the most compelling moments, movements, and the people who made them happen. According to OUT magazine, one person tops the list for 2012 — statistician and writer Nate Silver. You may remember Silver as the man who gave you hope with his (ultimately incredibly accurate) predictions of an Obama victory.
In an interview with OUT writer Aaron Hicklin, Silver talk about growing up nerdy, his thoughts on the gay culture, and what’s next for him and his crystal ball.
On growing up nerdy:
Although he wasn’t excessively bullied, Silver spent most of high school immersed either in fantasy baseball leagues or the debate program. “High school debate is a strange thing,” he concedes. “It’s very technical—you’re not up there giving some type of Abe Lincoln speech, you’re reading different types of evidence really fast.” He compares his delivery to the old Micro Machines ads, which may explain why he still talks in such a torrent, as well as his enviable ability to apply himself to the task at hand.
“I’m very conservative in some sense because I do believe that hard work is a huge part of the equation,” he says. “It’s often not sufficient to bring about success, but it’s very often necessary if you want to be really good at something. My team won the state title in my junior year, and we were first runners-up in my senior year—had one of the best records in the history of the state of Michigan.” He pauses to let this remarkable record sink in before adding, “I probably dedicated 60 hours a week to debate during debate season.”
On the gay culture:
“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.”
On what’s next:
Since the election, he’s been busy with his book tour, juggling pitches for TV shows and documentaries, and working on a new book proposal—“I don’t know what yet, but certainly one idea of this election is why do people believe the things they believe; why did people believe Romney was likely to win, in contradiction to the polls?”
Then there’s the future of his blog, FiveThirtyEight. Silver’s deal with The New York Times runs out next summer, and whether he should stay there or blow it up into a stand-alone site is a question he is still mulling. And, of course, looming over it all is 2016, another opportunity for Silver to assert his dominance in the art of statistical analysis.
Silver has played a prominent role in one of the year’s biggest stories. But his being name OUT’s Person of the Year begs the question: Who is your LGBTQ person of the year? While the December issue of PQ Monthly includes an overview of the Year in Queer, we didn’t name a stand out player. Who would be your pick? Share your thoughts in the comments.