In an essay that appeared in today’s Business Week, the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, declared that he is proud to be gay. I applaud his courage in coming out, but at first I considered jumping on the bandwagon of criticizing him for taking so long to do it. His explanation for why he delayed stuck in my craw. In his essay, he said that he comes from “humble roots” and doesn’t “like to draw attention” to himself. That seems too self-serving.
I think that he delayed because he has competing demands. First and foremost, he is CEO of one of the largest corporations in the world. In my view, Cook has an obligation to Apple that overrides his right to an unfettered personal life. He’s not a civil rights leader. He’s the CEO of a company and has a duty to the Apple shareholders to protect their investments. I work in a corporate environment, and I understand the challenges of being who you are when your performance is measured by stock price. If he thought that coming out as gay would affect Apple and its operations, then he is justified in keeping his personal life private. I’m sure that this decision to come out was vetted and approved by the Board of Directors of Apple so I’d like to say thank you to the Apple Board of Directors.
The Apple Board of Directors must have realized that in this day and age, people won’t care whether the CEO is gay so long as he performs. I guess it’s easy to tell the market you’re gay if your latest iPhone release sold more phones than any other in history.
There’s a view among many that we all just need to come out, consequences be damned. But I take a different tack and agree with Cook. I don’t think that my being gay is the sole characteristic that defines me. I’m a lawyer, a husband, a dog lover, an uncle, a son of the South, a writer, and many other things. I don’t have to come out to everyone. BUT. If I do. If I give people the opportunity to accept me for who I am, they just might surprise me.
I think the last two sentences of his essay will become of the most famous quotes of all times: “We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.” Tim Cooke October 30, 2014.