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

Apple CEO Tim Cook came out today as a gay man in an article in Bloomberg Businessweek.

“While 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.”

Good for him.

Cook, 53, has been criticized in the past by some who were upset that he refused to acknowledge what many already knew. But I’ve defended Cook for a few reasons.

1. He’s wasn’t harming anyone, and in fact was incredibly pro-gay as CEO of Apple

While, sure, I think that everyone should be out, I’m more tolerant of those who are not only not harming our community, but are actually helping it. If Cook were a closeted anti-gay Republican member of the US House, I’d have more issues with his previous non-disclosure.

2. It’s not easy coming out, regardless of how easy it is for those you come out to

Tim Cook, Apple COO, in january 2009, after Macworld Expo keynote. Picture by Valery Marchive (LeMagIT).

Tim Cook, Apple COO, in january 2009, after Macworld Expo keynote. Picture by Valery Marchive (LeMagIT).

I remember, when I came out to friend at the ripe old age of 27, one of them told me, “why did you wait so long, you know I was okay with it.” And I told her, “but I wasn’t okay with it.”

Coming out isn’t simply the act of coming to terms with other people’s demons, it’s coming to terms with our own as well. Whether or not you are okay with my being gay, in order to come out I have to be okay with whatever you think of me. And that means, to a large degree, I have to not only be mature enough to not care what you think, but I also have to be prepared for the potentially negative consequences — career- and family- wise.

And while Cook won’t suffer in his career, who knows about his family situation. He’s from Alabama — not known to be the most welcoming place on earth for the other.

3. Age matters

I think, but can’t prove, that it’s easier for someone, say 33 years old, to come out, as compared to someone who’s 53. At our age (I’m a tad younger than Cook, but close enough) you were likely raised “knowing” that you would never get married, never fall in love; and that everyone else like you, save you, was a pervert. That’s not easy baggage to ever get over.

It also didn’t help that some (a lot) of your friends were dying before their 30th birthday.

I think it’s different today for many, but not all, young gays. They’re growing up in a world where in many places, outside of San Francisco and Fire Island, it’s normal to be gay, abnormal to be a hater, and expected that some day they’ll get married to someone of the same sex.

Oh, and their friends aren’t dropping like flies. And while AIDS did wonders for forcing people out of the closet, it also helped reinforce a different sort of closet. One of fear. Fear for yourself, fear for your friends. Fear of sex and intimacy. Again, that’s not an easy thing to get over, ever.

So while I’ve been wanting Tim Cook to come out for a while, I never had a particular beef with his lack of coming out. I get how hard it is. I get how personal the journey is. And in the end, so long as Cook wasn’t voting against our civil rights in Congress, while regularly cavorting bare-chested with hot young men in his Instagram account, I just couldn’t get that peeved about his decision to remain quiet.

I am, however, quite pleased now.

Here’s the end of Cook’s piece in Businessweek:

When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I’m doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.

Damn.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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

  1. AleishaHansfordsyd says:

    my boyfriends sister just got a fantastic green Kia Rio Hatchback by working part-time from a home pc… see it here….>> -> INCREASE YOUR EARNINGS!! <-

  2. Bill_Perdue says:

    Cook’s coming out is not a big deal one way or the other. What would be a big deal is a series of big donations to groups pushing for the passage of an ENDA version or a robust Civil Rights Amendment sans cult exemptions and asking employess to do the same.

    A March on Washington to demand an end to inaction on ENDA or even better, a robust Civil Rights Amendment by the Obama regime and both parties in Congress.

  3. Annski1 says:

    Maybe he will take away I Phones from Congress until they pass ENDA!!

  4. Tatts says:

    I have the feeling that having a net worth of nearly half a billion dollars should cushion any unease he had about coming out. He should have done it earlier, because everyone at Apple knew.

    What’s the worst that could have happened? Seriously–he’s set for life. He’s set for hundreds of lives. I have a hard time feeling empathy for him and especially for closet cases who are in positions of power.

  5. Good for him, finally he say it to the world….
    _________________________
    Emory Newbery

  6. dcinsider says:

    I agree the question of timing is always up to the individual EXCEPT where the person has done anything affirmatively that would interfere with the progress of gay rights.

    I carve out an exception for public figures, however. Once you are in the limelight, you really need to come out, because it will come out anyway, and if another person outs you, it suggests that you are ashamed of who you are, and send a very negative message. Thus, the public figure has an affirmative obligation to be honest about who they are. They owe that to the young gay man or lesbian in Nowhere, Nebraska who still thinks they are alone.

    Sorry, but your privacy ends where the good of your gays and lesbians begins.

  7. dcinsider says:

    I had the benefit of giving my response some thought and realize that the time-frame in my mind, when everyone I knew was out and open, was actually the early 1990’s, leading up to the March on Washington. I misspoke when I said the 1980’s, which sort of made us seem like gay superheroes. We were not.

    John’s recollection of the the 1980’s is more accurate than mine. However, by the march in 1993, all of my friends were out both in their personal lives and at work.

  8. sane37 says:

    How is this a publicity stunt?

    It does nothing for Tim Cook (financially) and even less for Apple.

  9. sane37 says:

    Funny how no one ever expected Steve Jobs, or anyone else for that matter, to come out as straight.
    We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. Luckily we have time on our side, and a thirst for equality for all.

  10. caphillprof says:

    Yes he’s late and maybe it was necessary, but here is why this is important:

    Our hates and prejudices are enabled by the top, almost mandated by the top. And he embodies the top. It is the top that resists blacks and women. There were always gays in the top but they were pathologically closeted–trophy wives, adopted children, walkers, hostile to low class homosexuals. That is no longer tenable.

    The disagreement over who was in and who was out in the 80s is mostly political. Democrats were out and Republicans were cowering in hiding.

    We are close to the tipping point, perhaps even over the tipping point. We used to protect the meek and timid who cowered in their closets. Increasingly there is no reason not to pull folk out of their closets, and not just the politicians, but the others.

  11. Hue-Man says:

    I’ve come to appreciate there’s a process issue for public figures wanting to come out. Before the Age of AIDS, I worked with a public figure who was about Cook’s age and who was flamboyantly out at work – with his “life partner” – and in his personal life but not publicly. At the time, I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t out, to serve as a role model, especially since there were so few. It’s only later that I considered how he might have made a public statement about being gay.

    None of the alternatives is attractive. In a magazine interview? “We’ve talked about my career and BTW, I’m gay.” Letter to the editor: “I wish to go on record as being a gay man.” TV puff piece? “And here’s my bedroom, where I make passionate love to my boyfriend.” At the time, the media didn’t out him because everyone who knew him, knew he was gay and he didn’t want to be a public spectacle. (He was outed discreetly in his obit.)

    I think there’s still process to consider for the Tim Cooks. My own favorite is as a supporter: “As a gay man, I wish to encourage people to support the Trevor Project (or pick your LGBT cause).”

    (In Cook’s case, my guess is he didn’t need the “distraction” when he was working full-out on putting his mark on the entire organization as CEO. Here’s CNN reviewing his first 100 days as CEO: “So after a few robust launches, and a few bumps in the road, where do Cook and Apple go from here?” http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/02/tech/innovation/tim-cook-100/ )

  12. Houndentenor says:

    Those are all good points, but I do think we have to respect that people have a right to choose the time, place and way in which they will come out. I’m also not sure that it’s fair to expect someone to lose the privacy expectations everyone else takes for granted because they have moved up one extra rung on a career ladder. I’m glad Cook came out but like I said, he wasn’t exactly IN so this isn’t that big a deal. In fact, I thought he’d already done this because his being gay is so frequently mentioned at least in the gay press.

  13. Naja pallida says:

    I think someone needs to create a Kinseyesque scale for “out”. On one end, we have Larry Craig, completely closeted can’t even bring himself to admit it to himself when he’s caught propositioning a guy for sex in an airport bathroom. Then someone like Ted Haggard, he’s only gay when the Devil (read: crystal meth) makes him do it. Somewhere in the middle we have Lindsey Graham, who nobody at all would be even the slightest bit surprised (except maybe John McCain) if he issued a press release coming out tomorrow. Then we have someone like Tim Cook, with whom it was no secret. Anyone who knew him, or took a bit of time to look up information on him, could have figured it out. To out and about…

  14. dcinsider says:

    I agree, but the whole game changes when you are a public figure. Whether that is fair or not is irrelevant.

    Remember, when one enters the marketplace, as we tell people all the time, they don’t get to make the rules. You cannot refuse to bake a cake for for a gay wedding in states where public accommodation laws prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

    Likewise, when you choose to become a public figure, you accept a certain level of reality that you will not enjoy the same level of privacy you once enjoyed, and you have a duty IMHO to use that bully pulpit for good. In the case of publicly visible gays and lesbians, they have a duty to be out, and to use that pulpit for good.

  15. dcinsider says:

    “Is there a rule that requires full disclosure of their sex lives when they become a public figure if and only if they are gay?”

    Coming out is not full disclosure of one’s sex life. That is the anti-gay reaction of all time. This has nothing to do with Tim Cook’s sex life.

    C’mon folks.

  16. dcinsider says:

    I don’t think so, but it was Boston, and we were always significantly more brave and forward leaning than our New York counterparts! :)

    My crowd was nothing special. Regular guys (and women) mostly professional but not all, but not a single one in the closet. I did not think it that remarkable at the time, but perhaps we were unusual.

    But my point was that Tim Cook had had ample time to be out, and really should have been more open if not in 1985, at least in 2005.

  17. nicho says:

    There are sometimes career reasons for not coming out. I have a very good friend who is gay and who is a lawyer — top name law school, top of his class. He was hired as an associate at a prestigious law firm. He did a fantastic job. He won a lot of important cases. Clients loved him. And he billed more hours than anyone else in the firm. He was also out to everyone in the firm. When it came time to make partner, guess who got it? Not my friend. Rather the straight dude who was hired at the same time and who wasn’t quite as good. Of course, it probably helped that he and his wife were invited to dinner parties and weekends away with the partners. My friend and his partner were only invited to official company functions. When he was bypassed for partner a second time, he left the firm.

  18. heimaey says:

    I came out in 92 in College. There were gay people in my high school but I wasn’t ready I guess. I think there were a lot of people out then though that weren’t involved in ACT UP or radical whatever…I do remember it seeming that way at first, but once I came out I found all sorts of people like me. It was definitely not like today though.

  19. GarySFBCN says:

    I was just criticising him yesterday, regarding his speech in which he chastised people in Alabama for being slow on LGBT rights all the while he was in the closet, as it is shameful to be out.

    I’m glad he chose to come out. That the CEO of the world’s most valuable corporation, that makes some of the most cherished products is gay and out makes a tremendous statement and will help many more people than a speech in Alabama.

  20. heimaey says:

    It’s awesome but I wish he didn’t bring god into it. Yawn.

  21. Houndentenor says:

    For the part of America where it doesn’t matter, you are right. It doesn’t and shouldn’t. For the rest off the country where gays are demonized and strawmanned, it makes a huge difference. It shouldn’t, but it does.

  22. Houndentenor says:

    There are different levels of being out. There are people who are super closeted meaning no one knows (or at least they kid themselves into thinking that). There are people who are out with friends and some of their family but not so much at work. It’s not a binary of in or out.

  23. Houndentenor says:

    Cook wasn’t exactly in the closet all this time. It wasn’t a secret and he doesn’t seem to made any effort to be conceal the fact that he was gay. He just hadn’t issued a press release or done an interview about it.

  24. MyrddinWilt says:

    Maybe in the US. In the UK the age of consent for gay male sex was 21 until 2001. And that had consequences. When I was at college it was the rule that you never, ever inquired about a gay man’s partners because the chances were quite high that he was 21 and his partner 20. And yes, the police did prosecute those cases.

    Being a public figure also makes a difference. From what I read, Cook was out to his friends and family. He just hadn’t made public mention of it. And there it gets tricky. Is there a rule that requires full disclosure of their sex lives when they become a public figure if and only if they are gay?

    I was at an SF convention a couple of years back and one of the Dr Who panelists suddenly and for no particular reason declares that ‘I’m gay by the way’. Which struck me as somewhat odd given that we were talking about classic Who at the time where sex doesn’t come up at all since the program was aimed at 8 year olds.

    It really shouldn’t matter. It should never have mattered in the first place.

  25. BeccaM says:

    Simply this: Good for him. And extra kudos for coming out while still in a position — CEO of one of the world’s largest corporations — to actually help.

  26. Drew2u says:

    I waited until I brought my boyfriend over to “come out” to my female best friend a couple years ago because I knew how she would react and it’s proven essentially true. When we’d be going places together and people would ask if we were a couple, it used to be, “No, we’ve just been good friends since high school” but now it’s, “No, HE’S GAAY!!”
    Same with a cosplay outfit that I’m doing, male version of a female Disney villain (never thought I’d look good in a leather vest, but dayum). We talk about how to make the outfit a guy’s outfit and while I say, “don’t want to go for an androgynous look,” she says, “you’re not a drag queen”.
    My older sister has gotten into the habit of calling me a “bitch” whenever I make a sarcastic joke, something she never did before. Things like that which are more annoying than anything, I find affecting more other people’s… stereotypes? … than being fearful of my job or safety affect how and when I deem it relevant to talk about my relationships. (though it was hilarious when a coworker of mine addressed a group of us as, “hey queers” in a non-pc, hipsterish ironic assholism completely backpedal his comments when I mentioned my boyfriend, haha)
    [for the record I was in first grade in 1990]

  27. Indigo says:

    53 is ridiculously young to be fearful of coming out. Stonewall was 45 years ago in 1969 when the dude was 8 years old. Okay . . . give him a decade to get acquainted with his sexuality and it’s 1979 and he’s dodging into the wonderful world of Log Cabinetry. He’s been taking it to the bank while good people struggled and, in too many cases, died. Now we’re supposed to holler Halleluiah? I don’t see it. It’s a publicity stunt.

  28. FLL says:

    Since the 1980s, many people have changed their minds about either being open about their own sexuality or being accepting when other people come out of the closet. I really think the term “rebrand” should only be used when discussing a professional politician, in other words, someone who gains some political advantage by changing their mind in a progressive direction (and is possibly just looking for votes). The derogatory phrase “rebrand” is used way too freely. I don’t think it should be used to describe individuals who have never run for office, in which case the better phrase would be “changed their mind.”

  29. The only people I know my age who were out in the 80s were in ACT-UP in NYC. I think we hung out with decidedly different crowds, and I’d venture that your crowd was the anomally, not mine.

  30. dcinsider says:

    Let’s not treat 53 as that ancient in gay years :) I have a personal interest in that.

    This is NOT a function of age. Everyone I know who is my age (and still alive) was out in the 1980’s, and they are all successful career-oriented people. The fact that he is 53 is NOT an excuse for his life in the semi-closet.

    Now, if he did not discover himself until much later in life, and I get that that happens, that’s a different story.

    I am pleased that he has chosen to publicly acknowledge that he is gay. It took a ridiculously long time for him to do it, and he lacked the excuse that it would interfere with his career.

    I agree that he was not actively harming anyway by not being open in the past, but his silence was not helping anyone either, including himself.

    I am also pleased that he acknowledges that as gay man who did virtually nothing to move our political/social agenda, yet he received a significant benefit on the backs of others. He can be an open CEO because so many others risked their careers to give him that opportunity.

    So, good news that he came out, but he has a shitload of catching up to do, and he can begin by donating a ridiculous amount of money to something like the Trevor Project. Not everyone can be an activist, and not everyone is willing to lose a job to be honest about who they are, but everyone with money can write a check. It is time for Tim to open up that big fat wallet and make up in money what he lacked in courage, and truly benefit other gays and lesbians who need his monetary help.

    When he does that, then it is time to praise him.

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