James Randi Comes Out March 21, 2010

James Randi Comes Out

It shouldn’t evoke any big reaction anymore, but it’s a wonderful thing anytime someone feels comfortable enough to come out of the closet.

81-year-old James Randi has done just that today on the JREF blog Swift and on the For Good Reason podcast:

Well, here goes. I really resent the term, but I use it because it’s recognized and accepted.

I’m gay.

I should apologize for having used Swift as the venue to publish this note, an item that is hardly the focus of what we promote and publish here, but I chose the single most public asset I have to make this statement. It’s from here that I have attacked irrationality, stupidity, and irresponsibility, and it is my broadest platform. Here is where I have chosen to stand and fight.

And I think that I have already won this battle by simply publishing this statement.

He’s absolutely right. It doesn’t matter his age or his status. It’s always a powerful, courageous, and difficult statement to make. I’m only sorry Randi felt he had to wait this long to say it.

Every time someone comes out, it’s an inspiration for another LGBT person to do the same. Here’s hoping Randi’s statement gives someone else that confidence.

Incidentally, this means that both Randi and the new president of JREF (DJ Grothe) are out gay men.

Rebecca Watson explains the potential significance of this:

… I sincerely hope that this helps highlight the fact that the skeptical community is a diverse one. I also hope this helps a higher profile… organization tackles more gay/skeptic issues, which happily DJ goes into at the end of the interview. Randi agrees that the JREF will take on gay rights issues as they call for it. Awesome.

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  • muggle

    More power to him.

    And, yeah, the only shame is how long it took him but then the man is 81. Think about what it was like for gays to be out 60 years ago when he was young. It still ain’t no bed of roses.

    He got flak enough being an out Atheist and debunking people. He wanted to be able to do that great work so he chose.

    The great thing is that he doesn’t have to any more.

  • “It shouldn’t evoke any big reaction anymore”

    Um yeah but too bad that it does, in a lot of places, and especially in politics.

  • Kevin

    Good for him.

    Very courageous and respectable. He has my full support, and I encourage everyone to show the same.

  • Right away when I read the title of the post I knew it meant Randi was coming out a homosexual.

    I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised. While Randi isn’t right on everything, he is a very intelligent person, and, like Watson said, him being gay adds to the fact that the skeptical community isn’t just made of white, educated men, it’s made up of every kind of person.

    Congratulations to Randi for coming out.

  • stephanie

    And all I can think is that James Randi really is Dumbledore, isn’t he? 😉
    Good on him. Sad it took so many years for him to feel comfortable enough to come out.

  • I have to admit my first reaction when I read it on his site was “Really? This isn’t some joke?” this was followed quickly by a shrug of the shoulders and me getting back to work. I didn’t expect it but then again it isn’t really important in the grand scheme of things.

    Now hopefully in a generation or two it won’t be anything important.

    *Me wonders if Randi has ever met George Tekai?* 😉

  • *shrugs* So… he’s gay. Why is this a big deal, again?

    @James — It’s “Takei”.

  • human michael

    just nitpicking on gabriel’s comment: there are plenty of white, educated homosexuals. lol

    i agree that it is wonderful he finally feels comfortable enough to present his whole identity to the public. i share the sentiment, too, that it is unfortunate he wasn’t able to do so sooner in his life. not only will his example help others feel comfortable with coming out, but his actions in the skeptic community help to make this world a safer and more tolerant place for lgbt persons. religious dogma is still the driving force against sexual liberation and human rights.

  • Tom

    The fact that he took this long to find out makes me want to cry =(

    The fact that he found out makes me =)

  • Carlie

    Same reaction as Tom. I’m so glad for him that he’s ready to be comfortable as he is, and so sad that it didn’t happen before now.

  • I’m amazed he felt the need to wait so long. I doubt any of his friends or fans would admire him any less.

  • I’m a straight, right of center atheist and I love James Randi just as much now as I did before he came out. I’m glad he felt comfortable enough to finally do that. Good for him!!!

  • Well good for him. It doesn’t make the slightest difference to me though. I don’t see why it should make a difference to anyoen else either.

  • I’m glad that him coming out is met with nought more than a shrug and a pass the biscuits from the atheist community. Now if only our theist friends could pull their heads out of their asses long enough to accept that the only acceptable person is a white, heterosexual male.

  • Jamie

    It’s really none of my business to know this fact, but if it was important for him in his life, then good for him.

  • Jagyr

    Very cool 🙂

  • I honestly never would have guessed.

    Even though I’m a staunch conservative, I really don’t care. Randi has been a fantastic spokesman for skepticism.

  • Canadiannalberta

    100% support from me.

  • JakePT

    Unfortunately I think it says a lot about our society that even a man as outspoken as James Randi didn’t feel comfortable revealing this until now.

    Fortunately it also says a lot about our society that after all this time he finally feels comfortable revealing this now.

  • Casimir

    I think he waited this long just so he could go to the prom in Mississippi.

  • Jen

    It occurred to me as I read this that while I have read interviews with JR and listened to interviews and all that, I don’t think I have ever heard anything about his personal life. How sad he waited this long to tell us (we love you, Randi!) but how wonderful that his heir-apparent has been out with little fanfare. It seems that Randi was most in the spotlight in the 80s with his debunking, and that was with a conservative in the White House and the AIDS crisis, so maybe that’s why? Did people really suck back then? Luckily, we have totally outgrown that type of silly behavior- oh, right. If a girl in Mississippi can’t take her girlfriend to prom, it shouldn’t be a shock that this announcement only happened after he handed over the reins and developed terrible health problems.

  • revyloution

    People are surprised at this info? I always thought he was way to snappy of a dresser to be straight.

    My hope is that with this news we can get those odd ball theist-homosexuals to think about their devotion to a faith that hates them. Gays for Jesus has always been one of those things that made me turn my head and say ‘Whut?’

    Good on ya Randi, enjoy your golden years.

  • littlejohn

    My admiration for him has only increased. Given then generation in which he grew up, this must have been even harder than coming out as an atheist.
    He will always be my hero.

  • Erp

    I’m not so surprised that many gays are religious. Note the ones who are comfortable with being gay find or define a denomination (or subset thereof) that welcomes them (e.g., the Metropolitan Community Church, United Church of Christ, parts of the Episcopal Church, Unitarian Universalists…). Congregations provide a community that can be used as support and as a base for wider action and tend to be protected from outside attack (some would raid a gay bar without thinking twice but might hesitate to raid a church known to welcome LGTBI people [though the protection isn’t full-proof]).

    Then there is also the thought that if no one else likes them as they are (and think of an isolated lesbian or gay teenager in a rural Bible Belt community) God still does. An imaginary friend they can talk to is still better than no friend they can talk to.

    African Americans did the same (though without the problem of isolated individuals). When the traditional churches made them second class they formed their own denominations (AME, AME Zion, and so on) and congregations.

  • me

    it really strains credulity to figure out what this item has to do with the subject or mission of this blog.

  • Erp

    You mean other than it being Hemant Mehta’s blog and he gets to post what he chooses whether it is math, atheism, humanism, skepticism, being friendly, children, etc.?

    It actually fits quite well.

    James Randi is a well known atheist and skeptic
    Hemant is talking about being friendly to people of differing sexual orientation (or did you think being friendly in the Blog title meant only to people of differing religions?)

  • Captain Werewolf

    Randi is a public figure heavily involved in the atheist and skeptic communities, between which there is significant overlap of membership. That he took so long to come out is in large part due to a culture of hate and exclusion toward homosexuals. Much of this animosity was and still is compelled by religious belief. This blog is specifically about the atheist community, and, more broadly, about acceptance. What about this strains credulity?

  • Alan E.

    He apparently came out because he had seen “Milk” only a week prior. More people should see this, and hopefully gain the courage that Mr. Randi has shown today.

  • Kirk C

    I would be interested in an explanation of why, precisely, Mr. Randi “resents” the term gay.

    Might it be because he spent so long refusing to embrace it and the liberty of both spirit and action that flows from that unabashed embrace?

  • sosman

    I’m guessing he won’t be running for president then. Its one thing to be gay but sheesh he’s a goddamn atheist!

  • Claudia

    I’m surprised at the news, but not because he’s gay. It just strikes me as odd that someone as outspoken as Randi, with such a strong conviction in the fight against irrationality and so used to being attacked by religious nuts would take this long to come out.

    Mind you, I think its great. Better late than never of course, but I’ll admit to being a little confused. Coming out means being the target of irrational religious hatred. If you’re a dentist it makes sense to want to avoid it, if you’re James Randi I have to wonder if you’ll even notice the difference. I hardly think the nuts can hate him more than they already do, and the atheists that make up his “base”, so to speak, are overwhelmingly non-homophobic. I can only suppose that the deep self-loathing that was likely drummed into him as a boy and young man left such deep scars that even his rational mind was unable to surpass the fear of rejection.

    How tragic that he spent the vast majority of his life without being fully himself, but how joyful that he can end his life a truly free man.

  • Danny

    I’ve gotten a lot more negative reaction from telling people I’m an atheist than I have from telling them I’m bisexual. Yet I’m usually more fearful disclosing my sexuality.

    I’m delighted that Mr. Randi feels comfortable enough to come out. Shows a little progress in society I guess. He’s one of my biggest heroes.

  • Christophe Thill

    Well… uhhh… ok, then.

    Actually I don’t really care about the private life of the people I admire intellectually.

    But it’s true that the fight for gay rights and the skeptical fight against woo and BS have quite a few things in common. Both often involve debunking myths.

  • Valhar2000

    I am also surprised that we never found out about this sooner. He could hardly fail to find support among his current fans. Then again, it’s possible that things were not once as they are today. Who can say?

    Nonetheless, I’ll add my voice to the fanfare: James Randi was awesome, he is awesome, and I predict that he will continue to be awesome for as long as he lives.

  • Hybrid

    My mental fundy model screams:

    “So that’s why he’s rejected God for all of these years, he clearly just wants to be able to live his twisted lifestyle.”

    If it hasn’t been said already, it will be soon.

  • @Tom
    James Randi did not find out, he came out. Of course James Randi himself knew all along. It was implied in the interview that he has a long-term partner too.

  • Chris

    I wouldn’t have guessed. (That’s not saying you always can.)

    So awesome to see people of all ages coming out. This and the story of the Mississippi lesbian teen have had be feeling positive this week (not that she was banned from prom, but that she’s standing up and being herself in a hostile environment).

    Makes me want to come out all the more, and I’m sure it’s inspirational to a lot of closeted gay people.

  • Tom

    @miller – Thx, it is an important distinction

  • Neon Genesis

    “I’m surprised at the news, but not because he’s gay. It just strikes me as odd that someone as outspoken as Randi, with such a strong conviction in the fight against irrationality and so used to being attacked by religious nuts would take this long to come out.”

    As a gay atheist still in the closet, I can understand why he might be more comfortable discussing his views on religion than his sex life with people. I’ve come out as an atheist to my sister but I haven’t come out as gay yet to her. I’m still afraid to admit I’m gay to my sister even though I know she would probably accept me for it. It’s just more awkward talking about sex with people than religion, IMO. It’s not like sex is a topic that comes up in normal everyday conversation.

  • Tom

    Think about how hard it will be for some in the future to admit that they are incestuous and proud of it. That is another issue we have yet to deliberate much in society…

  • Anna

    People are surprised at this info? I always thought he was way to snappy of a dresser to be straight.

    I’m also surprised people are surprised. I remember reading rumors to this effect at least 5 or 10 years ago, so I just kind of assumed it was common knowledge. In fact, I didn’t know that he wasn’t actually out of the closet.

  • Chris

    “I’m still afraid to admit I’m gay to my sister even though I know she would probably accept me for it. It’s just more awkward talking about sex with people than religion, IMO. It’s not like sex is a topic that comes up in normal everyday conversation.”

    Similar situation here, particularly with my brother. It’s kinda that seeing as I never talk to him about being heterosexual, either, coming out as gay is double-awkward because it means bringing up sexuality in the first place.

  • Claudia

    @Neon Genesis and Cris, thanks for the comments, as a straight lifelong atheist I’ve never dealt with closets of any sort, so I sometimes have a hard time seeing these things.

    Your comments got me thinking about what I’ve heard Dan Savage say more than once. People get creeped out by people coming out as gay because their minds turn to sex. Telling your mother you are gay will make her instantly think of you in bed with someone of your gender, when she’d just as soon not think of you having sex, period. This of course is a double standard because disclosing you are straight does not make relatives imagine you getting down and dirty with anyone, but I can see where it would contribute to the awkwardness.

  • “There is more news from the James Randi Educational Foundation. After his recent coming out as gay, now the Amazing one has another shocking revalation:…” read more:

  • Mad LOLScientist

    @Tom: Incest, like rape and pedophilia, is rarely (if ever) just “about sex.” It’s overwhelmingly about power and control, expressed in outwardly “sexual” ways. ‘Nuff said about that.

  • Robin

    –Actually I don’t really care about the private life of the people I admire intellectually.–

    I’m going to have to take issue with comments like this.

    Being GLBT is NOT part of a person’s private life, any more than a straight person’s orientation is part of theirs. Being GLBT is something one IS, twenty-four seven, whether they are public about it or not.

    “Not really caring” about someone’s sexual orientation is, to my mind, making that person’s orientation irrelevant. Sexual orientation is NOT irrelevant. “Not really caring” seems to me to be dodging the subject, which is tolerant, but not accepting; there is a world of difference there.

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