Why Tim Cook's Coming Out Is So Important

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
Early this morning, Apple CEO Tim Cook came out as a gay man in an essay published by Bloomberg Businessweek. "While I have never denied my sexuality," Cook wrote, "I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."
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Cook's sexuality was considered an open secret in the general public. Most colleagues and friends have long known of his sexuality, "and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me." But, as he wrote, "Not everyone is so lucky."
It was this realization that inspired the tech mogul not only to come out of the closet, but do so in an explicit and eloquent fashion. Citing Dr. Martin Luther's King's famous provocation to all people — "What are you doing for others?" — Cook stated that though he is and always will be a private person, "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."
The privacy issue is a longstanding argument when it comes to public figures and the closet. At the height of his fame, Anderson Cooper was lambasted for his refusal to speak up about his sexuality. By the time he did finally come out, the announcement was met with a general consensus of "too little, too late." But, while people like Cooper and Cook have the luxury of coming out on their own terms, neither of them faced the kind of consequences that many LGBTQ people in this country still do. While legislation continues bring us closer to nationwide marriage equality, stories like that of Daniel Pearce (the 19-year-old whose coming out went viral when his parents disowned him) are far from unusual. Coming out is still a dangerous prospect for many in the U.S. Furthermore, said Human Rights Watch director Boris Dittrich, "we shouldn’t forget that in approximately 80 countries in the world, homosexual conduct is still criminalized."
This is why it's both thrilling and vital to see the CEO of a multinational corporation take this step in the public forum. "We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick," concluded Cook. "This is my brick."
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