“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.”
By writing those words in an essay today, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, on the website of Bloomberg Businessweek, Apple CEO Tim Cook becomes the first chief executive of a Fortune 500 company to become openly gay while he is still CEO.
Several months ago Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James Stewart wrote a piece in The New York Times about John Browne, a former CEO of British Petroleum, who talked about being gay — though when he worked for BP he had not talked about it.
In that piece Stewart wrote that no CEOs of major companies “have been willing to publicly acknowledge being gay. I reached out to several of them for this article, and all refused to be identified.”
Stewart’s article got a lot of attention when, on June 27, 2014, he went on CNBC to discuss it. During the discussion one of the CNBC anchors blurted out, “I think Tim Cook is fairly open about the fact that he’s gay at the head of Apple, isn’t he?”
After an awkward silence Stewart said no, and reiterated that no CEO had told him on the record that he was gay.
That exchange was picked up and written about in thousands of press reports.
In today’s essay Cook adds: “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.”
Similarly, in an interview published last month in TVWeek, Stewart, who himself is openly gay, was asked whether CEOs who are gay should identify themselves as such, and told us: “I do feel that in many ways it would be very, very good. It’s healthy — not just for gays, but for all minorities. It breaks down stereotypes, it provides role models, it’s inspiration for people. It shows that, indeed, sexual orientation is irrelevant when you’re talking about managing large institutions, as it should be, just as race and ethnic identity should also be irrelevant. I think it creates a healthy perception that people should be judged on the merits and not based on stereotypes of particular groups.”
We urge you to click here to read Cook’s full essay.