Apple CEO Tim Cook’s coming out doesn’t change our perception of him. But it changes everything else.
So Tim Cook is gay. He came out publicly this morning on BloombergBusinessweek. His announcement wasn’t exactly a surprise, as a fair number of people already knew and no one really seemed to care. Apple customers probably wouldn’t care if the company was run by Kim Jong-un or a talking chimpanzee, as long as they keep coming out with cool new tech. But we should care. A lot. Not that Tim Cook himself is gay—that in itself is totally irrelevant and unimportant. We should care because the CEO of one of the world’s largest companies (number 5 on the Fortune list) thinks it’s important and necessary to tell the world he’s a gay person.
Now why would he think that?
It could be because he thinks we need to dispel misconceptions and shatter stereotypes about gay people.
It could be because he wants to clear a path for gays in the corporate world to be open about their orientation.
It could be because he thinks prejudice against gay people is still a big issue.
It could be because he wants to use his position and influence to change the way we think about homosexuality.
Or it could be all of the above, and if you read his essay, you will find threads of all of those reasons there.
The most salient line in Cook’s entire article is:
So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.
Mainstream media will no doubt pick up on the proud part and almost surely miss the crucial message in the second half of that sentence.
The headlines today all read, “Tim Cook says, ‘I’m proud to be gay,'” as if being proud to be gay is unusual or newsworthy. News flash: Gay pride has been around for decades.
But the debate still rages about whether sexual orientation is inherent or a choice, with either side providing a way for bigots (and particularly faith-based ones) to condemn gays, either as born with a defect or needing intervention to make them straight. Tim Cook elevates the discussion, silences the haters, and moves beyond all that.
I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.
And in coming out this way, Cook is effectively saying to the world, “Being gay is simply who I am, the way I was made, and I’m proud to share it with the world.”
Maybe I’m reaching too far, but I believe this is Tim Cook’s encoded message.
And what a liberating affirmation … that one’s being gay is not something that should be closeted or kept private at all. Straight people do nothing to hide their sexual orientation and have no concerns whatsoever about declaring it or making statements that confirm it, while being gay is still seen in many circles as a “lifestyle choice” and a “privacy issue.”
Whether or not Tim Cook’s coming out opens the floodgates for more CEOs and businesspeople to openly declare their sexual orientation remains to be seen. But it’s clearly a big step in the direction of freedom.