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Apple CEO Tim Cook: “I’m proud to be gay”

Tim Cook, after Macworld Expo 2009 keynote

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has come out in an op-ed written for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Cook, who took the reigns of Apple from former CEO Steve Jobs in 2011, had never publicly confirmed his sexuality. “I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now,” Cook wrote. “So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

Cook, who was named the most influential gay man in America by OUT Magazine in 2012, and featured in their OUT100 list of powerful LGBT Americans the following two years, confirmed that his sexuality was a widely-known fact in both his private life and during his day job running America’s most valuable company. “I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation,” Cook stated. “Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me,” though Cook acknowledges that he is fortunate to work at Apple, which has taken a strong stance in support of LGBT rights over the years. Indeed, Cook walked alongside Apple’s LGBT employees at this year’s San Francisco Pride, while Apple has supported workplace equality before Congress, opposed California’s Proposition 8, and spoke out against Arizona’s Religious Freedom bill — which gave business owners the right to refuse service to LGBT people on the grounds of their religious beliefs. Of working in such a pro-LGBT environment, Cook notes, “Not everyone is so lucky.”

Despite only today confirming his sexuality, Cook hasn’t shied from calling out inequality and rights abuses in the past. “America is moving toward marriage equality, and the public figures who have bravely come out have helped change perceptions and made our culture more tolerant. Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. … Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation.” The timing of Cook’s words are notable, given this week he took to a stage in Alabama to criticize his home state for its lack of LGBT rights.

“As a state, we took too long to take steps toward equality,” Cook told a crowd gathered to see him and seven other individuals be indicted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, which recognizes natives of the state for their contributions to society. “We were too slow on equality for African-Americans. We were too slow on interracial marriage. And we are still too slow on equality for the LGBT community.”

Cook shared a similar sentiment when accepting the IQLA Lifetime Achievement Award from his alma mater, Auburn University, last year. “Since these early days, I have seen and have experienced many types of discrimination and all of them were rooted in the fear of people that were different than the majority,” he stated during his 13-minute acceptance speech, which took place at the U.N. in New York. He echoed those words in today’s op-ed, writing, “Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.

“It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.”

The Human Rights Campaign hailed Cook for his announcement, with the group’s president Chad Griffin stating, “Tim Cook’s announcement today will save countless lives. He has always been a role model, but today millions across the globe will draw inspiration from a different aspect of his life. Tim Cook is proof that LGBT young people can dream as big as their minds will allow them to, whether they want to be doctors, a U.S. Senator, or even CEO of the world’s biggest brand.”

For Cook, though, the decision to come out was less clear-cut. “I’ll admit that this wasn’t an easy choice,” he wrote. “Privacy remains important to me, and I’d like to hold on to a small amount of it. … Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender. I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things. I hope that people will respect my desire to focus on the things I’m best suited for and the work that brings me joy.”

Ultimately, though, Cook is aware of how important his announcement will be, not only for himself, but for those still struggling with their sexuality. “I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

As he notes, “We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.”

Image Credits: Main – Valery Marchive / Flickr, Featured – Mike Deerkoski / Flickr

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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