James Randi and the queer community

I thought the Horowitz article was a bit harsh, but Randi was far from a saint. I mean he didn’t come out til age 80, and when asked about Stonewall where he was a few blocks away at the time, his reponse was ‘I left that to the activists’. :-/ i.e others fought for the rights he eventually benefited from. Gee thanks!

I lost a lot of respect after that. To be a skeptic and challenge honesty when hiding your own sexuality AND letting others fight the battle for you: not a good look.

Also I fancied the fuck out of him and Oliver Sacks as a queer kid - if they had come out then I’d have had a radically different early life. But no, both were closet cases. I had no out queer bearded elders to look upto, why I envy this generation.

Randi, through no fault of his own, lived out the majority of his life in a society where his sexual orientation was variously classified as either a criminal offense or a mental illness (not to mention a career-killer for most professions).

Certainly it would have been great if he’d had the courage and inclination to come out earlier, but under the circumstances it seems kind of harsh to judge him for his choice not to.


Based on the documentary I saw about him he also didn’t want to bring unwanted attention to his long-time partner (and eventual spouse) who was an undocumented immigrant and at risk of deportation to Venezuela, which he had previously fled out of fear for his life.

Sometimes people stay quiet about details of their personal lives not out of shame or fear for their own career/safety, but out of fear for the ones they love.


It wasn’t illegal after 1962 upto 2003, depending on where he lived - sodomy was decriminalised in the US 1986 - the year he met his longtermn partner. He chose to stay in the closet for professional reasons, well before his partner turned up…he didn’t come out til 2010.

Even by the 80’s and 90’s things were changing, and some of us came out during those times to make things better for others at risk to ourselves…people who didn’t have the money, power and influence Randi had.

And we certainly didn’t lecture others on honesty and skepticism - the first honesty is your OWN LIFE - if you can’t be honest about who you are, it makes all your other stuff suspect. See also what happened with his partner. Sounds like he’d rather lie than fight and tell the truth, that’s really telling.

Are you fine that his partner lied about his name, which caused the person he had stolen the identity of legal and financial difficulties, and where was Randi in all of that? Silent as well?

"Sometimes when Randi forgets himself, he still refers to his partner as José. Yet exactly how much Randi — the master of deception and misdirection — knew about his partner’s duplicity, and how complicit he may have been in it, is unclear. When Randi first met him in the Fort Lauderdale public library, it seems certain that Peña would have introduced himself by his real name: A profile of Randi published in The Toronto Star the following year describes the magician’s young assistant, named David Peña, struggling through La Guardia Airport with Randi’s luggage. When they traveled to Australia together for the “60 Minutes” stunt, Randi may have been masterminding a deception one level deeper than he ever acknowledged: Deyvi, pretending to be José, masquerading as Carlos, the 2,000-year-old spirit from Caracas. What followed might be the longest-running hoax of The Amazing Randi’s career.

When I asked Randi how much he knew about Peña’s true identity before the federal agents came to his door, he demurred, citing legal concerns. “This is something I don’t think I’d like to get into detailed discussion about,” Randi said. “Simply because it could prejudice our status in some way.”

It is not a good look, at all for a skeptic.

I try to be non judgmental about desperate people who make questionable decisions such as buying identities from the black market if that’s what they feel they need to do in order to not get deported to a place where they believe their life would be in danger.

And what would you expect someone in Randi’s position to do other than be silent? Rat out his loved one to the feds?


I’d expect him not to lecture others about honesty and deception for a start. That’s hypocrisy of the highest order. And fight it fairly and openly, and publicly, rather than another lie.

When I think of charlatans claiming they’re magnetic, I totally think of marginalized people trying to protect themselves and their loved ones in a dangerously oppressive society. /s


That shows you don’t know much about Randi and his blog and foundation. He went far beyond charlatans…

Do you really believe that either “being less than publicly forthcoming about one’s own sexuality in a society that criminalizes it” or “helping a loved one avoid deportation to a country they fled in fear of their life” is truly comparable to the kinds of deception Randi spent his career fighting against?


Unless he went around putting marginalized people in danger by actively outing them, there was nothing hypocritical about his decisions to stay in the closet and not put his partner at risk.


The stolen identity was that of a dead person, that is how these things are done, so as to not have a living i.d. that arouses suspicion of your assumed cover story.


We are talking about the United States in the 70’s-2010. Being queer wasn’t criminalised then…I know, I lives through those times. Sure it wasn’t socially acceptable and I bet the media would have maybe canned him - hence staying closeted for professional reasons, the entertainment world was far from accepting…but he’d not have gone to jail for it. Did you even read what you wrote?

It wasn’t a dead person, that was the problem. Read the link I posted above - ‘Jose’ though it was, but it turned out he’d stolen the identity of a real living person - who then had real problems because of it. “Sorry” doesn’t totally cut it in my mind.

Tell that to the guy whose identity his partner stole. He must’ve known that - and that guy who was a teacher faced legal and financial problems because of that identity theft.

That’s far from being honest and skeptical?

Like I wrote earlier, he spent more than half his life living in a society where his sexual identity was either a crime or classified as a mental illness. A society where even today being publicly outed as LGBTQ+ can hurt ones’ career and social standing, as you well know.

Did Randi issue a press conference announcing he was gay the instant he knew he wouldn’t be arrested for doing so? No. Am I about to condemn him for that? FUCK no.


Apparently you didn’t live in Texas or 13 other states that had anti-sodomy laws on the books until recently. The Lawrence vs Texas ruling was only in 2003.


Nope, it stopped being a mental illness in 1973. APA. So what was he doing for 37 years?

You do know you are talking to a queer person who lived this shit, right?

There’s a category error going on here. If a scientist cheats on his wife, do you count this as evidence that his scientific papers are fraudulent?


Staying the fuck out of your personal life?