In a moving open letter published on the Bloomberg Businessweek, he writes that he is “proud to be gay” and considers being gay “among the greatest gifts God has given me”.
“Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day,” he writes.
“It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.”
He went on to describe the changing attitudes of society towards the LGBT community since he was a child, and praised the brave public figures who have come out for challenging existing misconceptions and encouraging cultural tolerance.
The most important recent coming outs
The most important recent coming outs
1/9 1. Ellen Page
The 26-year-old actor came out in an inspirational speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s youth conference, Time to Thrive, on 14 February this year. She spoke about her fear of coming out publicly and the effect that had on her. She said, to the crowd cheering her: 'My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of the other side of all that pain.' Page said she hoped she could make a difference to others.
2/9 2. Vicky Beeching
Vicky Beeching, a British Christian rock singer popular in America’s Bible Belt, came out in an interview with The Independent, risking her career. In her interview Beeching talked about her anguish as a teenager as her feelings went against church teachings. Beeching now says she wants to be an advocate for gay rights within the church and came to blows with homophobic US Pastor, Scott Lively. She said to him on Channel 4 News: “I’m taking this step today so young people don’t have to listen to the kind of teaching you peddle, because it damages people.”
Jason Alden/The Independent
3/9 3. Tom Daley
The 20-year-old Olympic diving champion came out in an emotional YouTube video in December 2013, saying he was 'dating a guy' and in April this year said on ITV’s Celebrity Juice 'I am a gay man now.' This week Daley encouraged gay footballers to come out: 'I think people would be surprised how supported they'd be if they were to come out in a football environment,' he said at the Leaders in Sport conference in London.
4/9 4. Thomas Hitzlsperger
Speaking of footballers, the German, former Aston Villa player, Thomas Hitzsperger, became the highest profile footballer to be openly gay in January this year – he told the German newspaper, Die Zeit: 'It's been a long and difficult process… only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living with a man.' The 31-year-old retired from the game in 2013 because of injuries. He said that he had thought about coming out earlier while he was still playing for Wolfsburg, but was warned against it. Afterwards he said 'there was not precedent, so people could only speculate on what would happen.'
5/9 5. Andreja Pejic
Andreja Pejic is known as the striking Australian model who has done shoots for Elle and Vogue, as a man modelling womenswear. In July 2014 she revealed she had undergone gender reassignment surgery and came out as a transgender woman. 'I hope that by being open about this, it becomes less of an issue,' she told People magazine.
6/9 6. Sam Smith
The singer and rising star of 2014 came out officially in May this year when he said his album was about unrequited love for a man. Speaking to the Fader he said: 'In the Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year and he didn’t love me back. I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before.'
7/9 7. Charlie King
The 29-year-old former The Only Way is Essex star Charlie King said he was gay in an interview with This Morning, only this month. In the interview he said he wanted to be honest about his sexuality to help other people in the same situation feel more comfortable about it.
8/9 9. Hodor!
The actor, Kristian Nairn, famed for his portrayal of the gentle giant Hodor on Game of Thrones came out in March this year. He told the Wall Street Journal he didn’t fit the stereotype of what a gay man is supposed to look like: 'You have to be thin, you have to be tanned… that’s never been be me.' He said he 'wanted to show the world that we are varied people, as everyone else, you don’t have to be any way.'
9/9 10. Ian Thorpe
Australia’s swimming champion Ian Thorpe denied being gay for years and did not feel comfortable coming out until July this year in an interview with Michael Parkinson. Thorpe is a five-time Olympic gold medallist and has recently retired from the sport, in his 2012 autobiography he said he was straight, and in July he said that being gay was something he was only just telling people: 'This is only something that very recently, we're talking the past two weeks, I've been comfortable telling the closest people around me.'
“Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation,” he continues. “There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation.
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“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.”
The decision to publicly come out “wasn’t an easy choice”, he adds, calling for others to continue to respect his privacy over the matter.
“I’ve made Apple my life’s work, and I will continue to spend virtually all of my waking time focused on being the best CEO I can be. That’s what our employees deserve and our customers, developers, shareholders, and supplier partners deserve it, too.
“Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender. I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things. I hope that people will respect my desire to focus on the things I’m best suited for and the work that brings me joy.”
He ends the letter by describing the images of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy that adorn his office desk for inspiration.
“I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league,” Cook concludes. “All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I’m doing my part, however small, to help others.
“We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.”Reuse content