As far as newsworthy Apple announcements go, this was a little out of left field. Tim Cook became the talk of tech sites the world over yesterday following the publication of a deeply personal article at Bloomberg Business Week, in which he talked openly for the first time about his sexuality.
A large number of news sites latched onto the story and redistributed it emblazoned with the headline “Apple CEO Comes Out”, but the truth is, Cook has never technically been “in”. In the article, Cook outright states that he has never hidden his sexuality from his colleagues at Apple. Gawker even named him “the most powerful gay man in America” when he assumed his post following the death of Steve Jobs all the way back in 2011. Why, then, was this such a big story?
Because this is the first time that Cook has chosen to speak openly about the subject. In the article he explains that while he has always valued his privacy, he finally made the decision to “speak up” out of a sense of responsibility: “I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther king, who said: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?’ I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realise that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important… While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay.”
Some might say that Cook’s article was unnecessary, that if he was already openly gay then there was no need to announce it to the world. But those people would be mistaken. While Cook’s sexuality has absolutely no bearing on his ability to do his job, it is still important to show people, at a time when LGBT visibility is sorely lacking in mainstream culture, that a gay man can lead one of the most iconic companies in the world.
Cook recognises the fact that he is speaking from a position of incredible privilege, and in doing so, he has a more powerful platform than many from which to make a positive difference. “I don’t consider myself an activist,” he says, “but I realise 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.”