Column: The bravery of Tim Cook

While the Apple CEO’s coming out was inspiring and brave, it has brought to light the issues of coming out as a public figure.

Tim Cook is a powerful man. He is the CEO of Apple, one of the largest, richest and most influential companies in the world. He is also a member of the board of directors at Nike and the National Football Association. Forbes reported that his pay was $4.2 million in 2012.

Now, everybody knows that Tim Cook is gay.

On Oct. 30, Tim Cook announced that he was gay in an essay he published in Bloomberg Businessweek. This was the first time that the Apple CEO publicly acknowledged his sexuality, even though The Washington Post reported that numerous news outlets alluded to or commented on his orientation. His article mentioned how he hoped that his coming out would inspire others who are currently struggling with their sexuality.

Soon after his article was published, social media sites and news outlets exploded with breaking news stories and comments on the announcement. Although most of the reactions were positive and supportive, it is surprising that this statement came with so much publicity. At this moment, I would have hoped that Cook’s sexuality did not come as such a shock. It is somewhat disheartening to hear that he had to consult his board before publishing his essay, according to The Washington Post. Ideally, he should have been able to casually mention his sexuality without having to hide it for a lengthy amount of time and then publicly reveal it due to societal norms. This illustrates that there still remains hostility and hesitation toward the LGBT community. So much so that one of the richest and most powerful men has to subject himself to discrimination and hostility because of how he was born.

Tim Cook is the only Fortune 500 CEO to come out as gay, according to Los Angeles Times. However, BBC News reported that many campaigners know of other bosses in Fortune 500 companies that are gay, but have not come out as of yet.

Their reluctance is mostly contributed to the discrimination that they, and their company, may face when coming out. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association has listed 78 countries that count sexual activities within these groups as criminal offenses, with most of the countries located in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. BBC mentioned that many companies want to expand to these countries for fiscal gain, but they may be hindered if their CEO comes out as gay.

Tim Cook is extremely brave. The decision to come out to one’s family is immensely courageous, never mind coming out to the world. Hopefully, his essay will inspire many others to come out themselves and push countless workplaces to enact non-discrimination laws for their employees. For now, though, we keep fighting for the day when equality is second nature. Tim Cook summarizes his contribution to this fight for equality perfectly at the end of his article: “We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.”

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