Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, just disclosed that he is gay in an article published by Bloomberg Businessweek. This is the first that time he has publicly acknowledged his sexuality.
Many people in Cook's private life were already aware he is gay, and some in the public were cognizant of this as well. In spite of this, Cook was always somewhat reluctant to explicitly reveal this to the world.
As the CEO of one of the world's most notable companies, he valued his privacy. Yet, it's apparent that he felt a moral imperative to make a public declaration. Accordingly, Cook writes:
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, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me. 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. ... 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.
In the past, Cook has made statements in support of the gay community. Recently, he even condemned his home state of Alabama for being "too slow for the equality for the LGBT community."
Thus, he was never private about his views on this issue, but now he is public about both his convictions and sexuality.
Cook should be commended for his candor and bravery, as this is an extremely bold move in the business world.
Tim Cook Is The Only Openly Gay CEO Of A Major Corporation
We now have openly gay athletes, movie stars, singers and politicians. Even the military has taken a more progressive stance on this issue in recent years following the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Yet, Tim Cook is currently the only publicly gay CEO at the 700 largest corporations.
Simply put, the business world is still lagging behind in terms of creating a more equitable environment for the LGBT community.
In 2007, for example, John Browne resigned as the CEO of BP after being outed as gay. Since that time, he has called on gay business leaders to come out of the closet.
Likewise, according to a recent study from the Human Rights Campaign, a majority of LGBT people in the United States still remain closeted at work:
Hence, despite the fact that our society has become more open and accepting of the LGBT community, it's apparent that we still have a long way to go.
It's 2014, But The LGBT Community Still Faces Discrimination And Violence
The LGBT community in America, and around the world for that matter, is still subjected to discrimination and violent hate crimes all of the time. According to an FBI report on hate crimes in 2012, racial bias was the only factor that motivated more hate crimes than sexual orientation bias.
Thus, coming out is an act of defiance, and it's a smack in the face to bigotry. It's a public statement that no one should be ashamed for something as natural as breathing. Sexuality is not a choice.
An individual's sexuality does not define him or her, but society's obstinate desire to label everything often ignores this truth. Until the world stops attempting to place everything and everyone in boxes, we will never have true equality.
Correspondingly, Cook states:
Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one's sexuality, race, or gender…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. 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.
Indeed, we are human beings first and foremost, and should be treated as such. Regardless of sexual orientation, nationality, race, religion or beliefs, everyone deserves to be met with dignity and respect.
It's a sad fact that in 2014 so many people are still made to feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Yet, with the help of individuals like Tim Cook, we can break down the barriers that have perpetuated the fear, bigotry and lack of empathy in our society.
Photo Credit: Apple