Celebrating Tim Cook's Coming Out

Tim Cook is a hard working, likable guy and now titan of industry.  For many, even in the gay community, it was ok to regard his sexual orientation as private.  For Cook - rarely in the press prior to his CEO role - it seemed everyone respected his discreteness.  

Recently the New York Times asked, in “Technology's Rainbow Connection” if there is a "Gorilla Glass closet"? Journalist Kara Swisher said there are gay people from a certain era who just don't want to come out.  Tim Cook, likely fits into that era, but has broken through and in doing so this has huge consequences for ranks of executives, professionals, and young teens everywhere.

I can remember my own parents, seemingly in fatherly and motherly love, worried that my coming out would hurt my career in finance.   Little did they know that Tim Cook would come into view just a few years later. It seems as big as when the first gay kiss on network television happened within months of my coming out. Thank you, Will & Grace! I am 34 now and, like Cook, also a gay CEO.

If your son was the CEO of a company like Exxon, it might be hard to be completely proud of your son… at least for now with Exxon.  But Apple is a company most people hold dear, from using an Apple II in school, or the Macintosh, the first computer with a mouse, to now aspirational products like the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Tim Cook isn’t a typical flashy, self promoting, media darling of a CEO.  He has the same piety that even the Midwest can look up to.  Being LGBT is a kind of minority status you can easily hide and because of that, unfortunately for several decades too few important gays came out until late in life.

Staying in the closet means never really being who you are to the people around you the most, especially work colleagues.  To say it doesn’t matter if Tim Cook is gay or not is a convenient old idea that keeps us in the closet.  He can come to work and do his job regardless of who he loves.  That idea is fine if you never want to get to know Tim Cook.  But imagine you have a friend Tom, your best friend even; to say it doesn’t matter if Tom is gay or not is to say you never really knew him.  Having a world that keeps every future Tim Cook in the closet until he is 53 is a real shame.  If that Tim Cook happens to be your son, let’s pray you live long enough until he reaches 53 so you can really know him as well.

Questions will clearly come up about the consequences of Cook’s coming out.  Will it impact Apple stock price?  Will conservatives do a sell off? Will they have iPhones in countries run by religious dictators? But that has all been answered.  Those who thought Tim Cook had something to lose by coming out were just shown he didn’t.  He’s out.  Harvey Milk shared to us all that we must come out, “Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends, if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better”. But, your son or daughter, whether they are 13 years old or 53 years old may fear they have you to lose by coming out.  So reach out and tell your straight child you love them no matter what or it may be you who has something to lose….the time of really getting to know them.  If you are an employer you too must show your employees they are welcome--a memo in support of Pride month, an HRC sticker, a diversity statement.