It takes a lot of courage to speak out on a controversial subject, and even more bravery to open yourself up to possible criticism—CEO of Apple, Inc. Tim Cook demonstrated his fearlessness when he publicly announced that he’s gay.
On Thursday Cook penned an essay for Bloomberg Businessweek on the subject of human rights an equality, and referenced Dr. Martin Luther King as a source of inspiration behind the decision to speak out for those who feel silenced in fear of being unaccepted.
“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now,” Cook writes. “So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
Although the news wasn’t surprising to colleagues and close followers of Apple and its executive leadership, it’s a major declaration considering there still remains to be few openly gay executives at large corporations. In fact, Cook is said to be the only CEO of a U.S. company on the Fortune 500 list to come out publicly about his sexual orientation.
The shift in cultural norms and what is considered “acceptable” in America has indeed made it easier for celebrities and public figures to speak boldly on the subject. Currently, 32 states have legally allowed for same-sex marriages and the fight for marriage equality continues to grow stronger and louder every day. Yet there are still many laws that exist where being open about sexual orientation can lead to job loss and public shame.
While Cook isn’t looking for praise and doesn’t necessarily consider himself an activist, he does hope that sacrificing his privacy will help those who are still struggling with being open about who they are.
“When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league. 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.”
Follow Kiah McBride on Twitter: @writeonkiah