Like many, when I saw the news this morning that Apple CEO Tim Cook had made a public statement confirming what many already knew to be true – that he’s gay – I had a moment of pride. Here is someone at the top of their game, established in their field and proudly stating that they are part of a community to which I belong.
While I am at a point in my life (professional and otherwise) where I’ve long since removed the closet doors and am open about who I am, I know there are many others who don’t have that luxury. Maybe they’re young and scared because they are still really figuring themselves out at a larger level and the whole gay thing is terrifying. Maybe they live in some part of this country or world where being out and proud is tantamount to placing a target on the back of their head. Or maybe, like me, they just didn’t realize the importance of standing strongly in the light and not allowing the power of bigotry and discrimination to change who they are.
For many people having someone like Tim Cook speak out publicly and acknowledge that he is gay may be just the thing they need to feel better about themselves and in that be able to embrace who they are.
And there are many who need that help. This great post by Hilary Rosen on Washington Wire today highlights some still troubling statistics about the inequality facing the LGBT community related to the workplace.
There were, of course, any number of people whose response to Cook’s announcement was more of a collective eye-rolling. “It’s about time…” “What took him so long? …” and the like.
There was a time, mostly when I first came out, when I felt this powerful sense that any and all people who were gay had an obligation to be publicly out. Thankfully I was surrounded by thoughtful, reasoned people who helped me better understand that just as the nature of someone’s sexuality is a personal matter so too is the way in which they choose to share it. In other words, stick to cleaning up my side of the street and let others tend their own.
That said, whenever there is someone in a position of authority, power or success who steps forward and reveals who they are, when they risk professional and personal impact in favor of speaking their truth – it sends a strong message and, I think, makes us as a society just a little bit better.
Granted, Tim Cook is a white, wealthy, successful executive. Likelihood someone is going to jump him in a parking lot and beat him senseless or fire him for his being gay or deny him service in a restaurant is pretty slim. But the fact that his risk may not be as extreme as that others face does not take away from the fact that this extremely private man took an extremely big step today in the name of helping others.
Bravo, Tim. Bravo.