The Smartest Man in the World Is Gay: Daniel Tammet, a 28-Year-Old Autistic Savant from the U.K., Is Teaching Researchers Worldwide about the Complexity of Our Brain. but This Gay Man Also Has a Thing or Two to Teach Us about Love

By Bernstein, Fred | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), June 19, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Smartest Man in the World Is Gay: Daniel Tammet, a 28-Year-Old Autistic Savant from the U.K., Is Teaching Researchers Worldwide about the Complexity of Our Brain. but This Gay Man Also Has a Thing or Two to Teach Us about Love


Bernstein, Fred, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


For months the New York Times best-seller list pegged Daniel Tammet's Born on a Blue Day this way: "a memoir by autistic savant who can perform extraordinary mathematical calculations." It's a correct description, though it misses much of what makes Tammet so interesting, including the fact that the writer is gay.

Tammet ignited our imagination, first with the 2005 U.K. Brainman and more recently through his appearance on 60 Minutes, each chronicling his talents for numbers and language. He once recited the irrational number pi to more than 22,000 decimal places from memory, a feat that took five hours, set a European record, and raised thousands of dollars for charity. He learned Icelandic--one of the world's trickiest languages--in just one week. While his nickname at school was "Rain Man," Tammet is mentally more agile than Dustin Hoffman's character. (Though equally cinematic--Warner Bros. Pictures has optioned Born on a Blue Day for adaptation into a feature film.) Furthermore, Tammet, who was diagnosed at age 25 with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, has a remarkable ability to explain how his brain functions.

Tammet, now 28, grew up in a poor family in London, where his parents managed to cope with his autism and childhood epilepsy while raising eight younger children. Tammet first became aware of his homosexuality at age 11. He endured a spell of unrequited love at 16 (he consoled himself by listening to his favorite singer, Karen Carpenter). At 20 he met Neil Mitchell, a computer programmer. Six months later they moved in together in a house an hour outside of London. Tammet doesn't believe there's a neurological link between his homosexuality and his extraordinary mental abilities. There is a connection in his life, however: Both have helped him understand and appreciate the wide range of human experience. What once made him a "freak" on the playground, he says, now makes him friends around the world.

Your book is a best seller. You've been on 60 Minutes. What has the reaction been?

I get letters and e-mails, sometimes hundreds a day, from people who feel for all sorts of reasons that they are outside the mainstream of society. Maybe they see me as someone they can relate to. My Asperger's means I've found it difficult my whole life to relate well to people and make myself available emotionally. What was once a barrier is now a bridge.

Scientists are studying your brain. What are they trying to learn?

My brain seems to be what I would describe as hyperassociative. It makes connections between information very rapidly and connections and relationships between very different things. It may sound prosaic, but scientists have no idea how people add 9 and 7 and get 16, much less how they do multiplication, and my case may shed some light on that. Some scientists believe there may be a little Rain Man in everyone, if only there were some way to unlock it.

On 60 Minutes, Morley Safer was so enthralled with your mathematical abilities, he never even talked about your being gay. Is that typical?

I wonder if I've been talking about so much other stuff that it's almost snuck past. It is mentioned in many articles but often just in passing. It's treated as just one part of my story, which is as it should be.

You seem to have had a remarkably easy time with your sexuality.

I never, ever felt growing up that the feelings that I had were unusual or anything that I should be self-conscious about. That may be one of the blessings of my autism.

Meaning, you don't know what society expects?

Yes. I approach things very intellectually. So I understood that most people will be attracted to the opposite sex but that some people will be different.

When did you first realize that you were different?

I realized that I was attracted to boys when I was about 11, and I remember very clearly that process of suddenly wanting to be closer to the other boys. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Smartest Man in the World Is Gay: Daniel Tammet, a 28-Year-Old Autistic Savant from the U.K., Is Teaching Researchers Worldwide about the Complexity of Our Brain. but This Gay Man Also Has a Thing or Two to Teach Us about Love
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.