James Randi Makes Himself Visible

Penn and Teller do a magic trick with James Randi. Unrelated… but cute.

Via John Brownlee, who posts on Twitter, “my hero James Randi just came out of the closet… although I wonder why he waited this long, or chose to come out now.” Normally, a famous person’s coming-out announcement wouldn’t really feel like big news to post about here, but something about Randi’s news struck a cord. Perhaps it’s his age; James Randi is 81 years old, and, according to his blog post, this is the first time he’s officially told even his closest friends. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s also originally from Toronto; an antidote to Margaret Wente.

James Randi dropped out of school at age 17 to perform in a carnival roadshow as a turban-wearing stage magician and escape artist. He holds two Guinness records: one for being encased in a block of ice for 55 minutes, the other staying locked in a casket for 1 hour and 44 minutes, breaking Harry Houdini’s record from 1926. Bigger than his accomplishments in magic and escapology is his career as a skeptic/author. He entered spotlight for challenging the claims of spoon-bender/psychic Uri Geller in the 1972. Since that time, he’s made it his business to debunk those who prey on gullible people, especially for financial gain: televangelists, psychic surgeons, dowsers, vibrational healers, and the like. Randi runs an educational foundation (the JREF), which offers scholarships to a younger generation of skeptical thinkers. An excerpt from Randi’s coming-out post:

From some seventy years of personal experience, I can tell you that there’s not much “gay” about being homosexual. For the first twenty years of my life, I had to live in the shadows, in a culture that was — at least outwardly — totally hostile to any hint of that variation of life-style. At no time did I choose to adopt any protective coloration, though; my cultivation of an abundant beard was not at all a deception, but part of my costume as a conjuror.

Gradually, the general attitude that I’d perceived around me began to change, and presently I find that there has emerged a distinctly healthy acceptance of different social styles of living — except, of course, in cultures that live in constant and abject fear of divine retribution for infractions found in the various Holy Books… In another two decades, I’m confident that young people will find themselves in a vastly improved atmosphere of acceptance.

Before publishing this statement, I chose to privately notify a number of my closest friends and colleagues — none of whom, I’m sure, have been at all surprised at this “coming out.” I’m prepared to receive the inevitable barrage of jeers and insults from the “grubbies” out there who will jump to their keyboards in glee to notify others of their kind about this statement, which to them will be yet further proof of the perfidy of the rationalist mode of life that I have chosen. Those titters of joy will be unheard over the murmur of acceptance that I confidently expect from my friends.

This declaration of mine was prompted just last week by seeing an excellent film — starring Sean Penn — that told the story of politician Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. I’m in excellent company: Barney Frank, Oscar Wilde, Stephen Fry, Ellen DeGeneris, Rachel Maddow, are just a few of those who were in my thoughts as I pressed the key that placed this on [the JREF blog] and before the whole world…

I should apologize for having used [this blog] 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.

It just goes to show that it’s never too late to step forth, never too late to declare visibility. Thank you and congratulations, James Randi!

One Response to “James Randi Makes Himself Visible”

  1. Resonant Serpent Says:

    I’m surprised he included Barney Frank who not only had language that would protect trans-gendered people stripped from a federal law, but has also said that he doesn’t support gay marriage.