James Randi — one of the founders of the modern skeptical movement, a leading rationalist, thinker, and fighter of antiscience — has made a big announcement: he’s gay.
A lot of us already knew this, although I don’t know how widespread the knowledge is. I imagine this will surprise some folks, but not others. Some may wonder why he waited this long… but he makes it clear why in both his announcement on Swift as well as in his interview with JREF President (and openly gay man) D.J. Grothe on his podcast For Good Reason. D.J.’s interview with Randi is excellent; they discuss how this molded Randi’s life, his thoughts on gay marriage, his frequent mentioning of Sophia Loren (which made me smile), and how this affects (or more accurately, does not affect) the JREF’s mission.
I found out about the announcement right before a friend came to pick me up, and I told him about it. We chatted about it for a moment, and then he asked me, "What difference will this make?"
That’s a darn good question. For me it makes no difference, and wouldn’t had I known or not before the announcement. At some level it’s always interesting to find out personal information about someone you know, or someone you respect — it’s not exactly gossip, just more info that leads to a feeling of knowing someone better. I know most people, certainly an overwhelming majority, will support Randi with this. Some won’t like it, and it may be that a lot of Randi’s detractors will delight in trying to use this against him. I look forward to watching them reap that whirlwind.
In the end, it’s a good thing for the LGBT community, because now yet another person of some stature will lend his own credibility to the movement. Just being open and comfortably gay without making a point of it will establish that this is just another of the many flavors humans come in.
So to answer my friend’s question, this won’t change Randi or the JREF. But there is still a lot of prejudice about homosexuality — and certainly a lot of that comes from "cultural conservatives" as D.J. called them — and the more we have this out in the open, the more people will be used to it. As that happens, that sense of "other" diminishes, and we learn to accept differences and diversity more easily and naturally. And that is a very good thing indeed.
I’m glad Randi has talked about this, and I’m proud of him.